Are dark triad cues really visible in faces?

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Description: The ‘dark triad’ refers to the personality traits narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy. Previous research found that participants could distinguish dark triad faces when judging images with average facial characteristics of people who scored either high or low on these traits. These results suggest that faces contain valid cues to dark triad personality traits and that the dark triad is a set of physical-morphological characteristics, as well as a set of psycho-social characteristics. Because putative links between personality traits and facial appearance have often not replicated well across studies, we attempted to replicate these results with a new set of face images. Participants correctly identified the high-narcissism male and female prototypes and the high-psychopathy male prototype significantly more often than would be expected by chance. By contrast, our analyses showed no evidence that participants could discriminate between the high- and low-Machiavellianism prototypes for either sex. Surprisingly, participants correctly identified the high-psychopathy female prototype significantly less often than would be expected by chance alone. Together our results suggest that male and female faces contain valid cues of narcissism, but do not necessarily contain valid cues of psychopathy or Machiavellianism.

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The ‘dark triad’ refers to the personality traits Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and narcissism. Previous research found that participants could distinguish between images with average facial characteristics of people who scored particularly high or particularly low on dark triad traits. These results suggest that faces contain valid cues to dark triad personality traits and that the dark triad is...

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