Is it really easier to succeed if you are cruel to be a villain?

Is it really easier to succeed if you are cruel to be a villain?

In the past 15 years, the number of studies on dark personality (including narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism) has been increasing rapidly. We now know that these traits are usually more pronounced in men than in women. We know that about 1% to 2% of people have extremely dark personality traits, which are dark enough to meet the clinical standards for personality disorders; about 10% to 20% have moderate dark traits. We know that even people with only moderate dark traits can cause serious harm to others: they are more likely to lie and deceive others, show racist attitudes, or treat others violently.

As researchers, we have personally studied these personality traits. But in order to balance the large amount of literature on dark qualities, we have recently begun to pay attention to the “ordinary saints” around us and the bright side of the human nature of the TAs. These people show sincere attention to others and do not hesitate to be nice to them, not to achieve a certain goal. They applaud the success of others, believe that human nature is good, and maintain the dignity of everyone. We recently conducted a study of more than 36,000 adults and found that these traits are very common: about 30% to 50% of people show significant bright personality traits , which vary in different countries and regions. These traits are especially true for women. universal.

We want to understand, which personality will bring more success and happiness in the long term-dark or light? People often say that “people are good at being deceived.” On the surface, this sentence seems correct. If you always spend your energy on taking care of others, maybe you are destined to be left behind. If you are willing to deceive, use others and do not worry about their feelings, you can take care of your own interests and climb faster. But does the research support this claim?

Experiments have proved that dark personality is “successful”, but only to a certain extent. A study found that in negotiation tasks that require competition with peers, dark personality will win more points; but in tasks that require cooperation, TAs will win fewer points. In the classic prisoner’s dilemma, those with dark traits are more likely to “ defect ” —that is, to deceive another participant and maximize their own results.

However, it is questionable whether TAs succeed in real life. In a company, people with dark traits are more likely to become leaders and be seen as attractive people, but when it comes to completing their work, TAs often have poor performance and poor teamwork skills . Our recent research also found that politicians with dark personalities are more likely to be elected and keep their positions, but other research shows that TAs are far less capable of pushing legislation through. For hedge fund managers with dark qualities, the financial returns that TAs get on the investment funds they manage are usually much lower. Generally speaking, people with dark traits will do more counterproductive work behaviors, such as stealing and abusive management as a superior (improper supervision by superiors, harsh management) . This seems unsurprising: Compared with peers with bright personalities, TAs do not have a higher average income.

In addition, outside of work, those with dark personalities are not lucky. Even if they try to avoid going to jail (people with extreme traits are very likely to be imprisoned) , they have a higher risk of suicide or death. In addition, TAs are not particularly happy: people with dark traits often lack self-confidence, cannot establish close connections with others, and have low life satisfaction. On the contrary, we find that people with bright personalities have a fulfilling, meaningful life: they usually have a more positive self-image, have a more positive relationship with others, and are satisfied with life.

The key factor here seems to empathy (Empathy) , namely emotional experiences with others resonate (TA and understand their point of view) capabilities. People with bright personality show strong empathy for others, while those with dark personality show very little. Our new research found that it seems that empathy leads to a more satisfying life. Similarly, prosocial (prosocial) behavior is also associated with higher well-being has a significant association , including to be friendly, willing cooperation, compassion for others.

Humans are born social animals, and we rely on cooperation and trust. When those with dark personalities try to use this for personal gain, they are taking their own risks. In fact, these people using fraudulent means and cruelly exploiting others are cutting off the branch on which they sit, that is, society. Although people with dark traits may attract the attention of others at the beginning, their social behavior cannot make them great success in the workplace or politics, nor can they make them feel satisfied with life.

At this point, our statement may make you think that all people can be divided into two groups: a dark personality and a bright personality. But in reality, there is a third group: we found that about 40% of people find a balance between darkness and light. Compared with people with bright personalities, people in the “mixed group” also have empathy and social connections, but they still show some dark tendencies-these dishonest, selfish, or emotionally hurting behaviors. To a certain extent, it hinders the interpersonal relationship of TAs.

Some people may think that being in the “mixed group” is the best: you can make some connections with others, but you won’t be treated as a bully. However, compared with people with bright personalities, people in the “mixed group” are less satisfied with life and evaluate themselves. It can be said that people in the “mixed group” seem to be moving towards a bright personality, but they are unable to be completely bright-it is those extra dark qualities that hinder them.

We believe that no matter what kind of personality you belong to, you have the basic ability to grow and change. Large-scale research has shown that your overall personality (such as neuroticism, extroversion, conscientiousness) will continue to change throughout your life, and we have found that the same is true of light and dark personalities.

Specifically, we found that as you grow older, the degree to which you exhibit light or dark traits also changes. As people get older, especially from 30 to 40 years old, they are more likely to show bright personality traits. Other studies have shown that traits related to character (such as responsibility and self-control) are more common in older people. Of course, age does not fully explain these results, and young people can also show bright personality traits. But the research shows that the fundamental distinction between light and dark personality is a process of psychological maturity.

We are born with a “sense of fairness”, but this ability is very limited. Therefore, just like language, this is a skill that needs further development. Our research, as well as research on non-human primates, the “close relatives” of humans, have shown that in the process of individual development, moral behavior is generated and changed to a large extent through cooperative social interaction. Therefore, if we accept and trust social relationships, we can move towards bright personality traits-this path seems to lead to healthy self-realization and even self-transcendence.

The most important thing is to have the willingness to change. Unfortunately, most people with extremely dark personalities don’t want to change themselves. Although they are not particularly satisfied with their lives, they are still obsessed with what they think they need: more and more power, wealth, and dominance over others.

Of course, sometimes we will shut others out for some reason and only care about ourselves-especially when we see those who cheat, deceive, and take advantage of others seem to be more successful than us. But rest assured, the reality does not seem to be the case. We have found that being empathetic and keeping in touch with others, making full use of the social nature of human beings, will eventually lead us to a happier life.

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