Welcome and thank you for your interest in our research group! Our research mostly focuses on the dark side of human nature, whether that is driven by personality or environmental factors. We conduct both basic and applied research on how people end up being harmed, who does the harming, and how to stop it. Although our lab activities sometimes venture beyond these parameters, below is a basic outline of some of the more studied topics.
Differentiating Dark Personalities
Traditionally, my research interests have focused on differentiating three commonly studied personality traits with respect to interpersonal harm: The Dark Triad (psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism). With the inclusion of Sadism, we often study a Dark Tetrad of harmful personalities. To date, we have found that Machiavellianism has proven to be the most confusing and misunderstood trait among these. In a recent paper, we argue that these misunderstandings come from the fact that the trait has inherent sensitivities to the environment that alter behavioral outcomes. Although their willingness to harm and intentions are just as malevolent as those high in other dark traits, the situation dictates when they will act positively and when they will harm others.
Forms of deception
When you deceive, do you have a plan? This deception may be for the greater good of humanity, or may be for some selfish reason. But those who deceive others without a long-term plan tend to have specific characteristics, relative to those who think it through. This is the basis for Mimicry Deception Theory (Jones, 2014). MDT argues that there are four tell-tale indicators of deception that has been thought out: It is complex, it integrates into a host or community, it extracts resources slowly, and it is not readily detectable. We apply this pattern to a variety of business and interpersonal contexts, including hacking, fraud, and child abuse.
Have you ever known someone who falls in love after a first date? OR have you ever heard, “I love you” when you were not expecting it? Perhaps you feel emotional connections happen right away? If you have, you might already be familiar with the concept of Emophilia. Emophilia is a construct that determines how fast and easily and individual falls in love. Those high in emophilia have a lower threshold for falling in love, and this lower threshold leads to different life outcomes including getting engaged more often, falling for Dark Triad characters, lying to protect romantic partners, and committing more emotional infidelity.
Along with our computer science collaborators, we have studied how different Dark Triad traits are associated with different patterns of cyberattack. We found that narcissism and psychopathy are associated with faster, brute force approaches with less strategy. In contrast we found that Machiavellianism is associated with more strategic and stealthy approaches to phishing and system infiltration.
Our more recent work is focusing on protecting end-users through inoculation training. We have found that there are two pathways to end-user vulnerability: knowledge insecurity and knowledge overclaiming. Those who are insecure may be best served with educational interventions, whereas those high in overclaiming may be best served through inoculation warnings. Inoculation is a Communications Theory that argues ideas and persuasion are like viruses. Humans can be given a weakened dose and natural counterarguments emerge (much like giving a weakened virus and having antibodies fight it). However, inoculation has produced mixed results in the cyber area, and we argue that it does not universally work for everyone.
In the realm of leadership and organizational behavior, we examine questions related to differentiating toxic forms of supervision, assessment of toxic leadership, investing in employees (or not) as a leadership style, and resilience under toxic leadership.