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Psychopaths Can't Manipulate As Easily Online: UBCO Study

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Psychopaths and narcissists are adept at manipulating you when you're face-to-face.

But their control is significantly diminished online, according to research out of the University of British Columbia in the Okanagan.

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A study titled "The Dark Side of Negotiation" worked with over 200 Canadian university students between October 2013 and February 2014.

Numerous students had personality traits on the "Dark Triad" (DT) spectrum, which encompasses narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism.

Narcissists tend to be grandiose personalities who love themselves, while psychopaths lack empathy. People who are Machiavellian are known for being "calculated manipulators."

“While there has long been a fascination with DT personalities and how they can impact ‘ordinary’ people, little has been studied as to how these people behave online,” psychology professor Michael Woodworth, who led the study, said in a news release.

ubc okanagan
The UBC Okanagan campus. (Photo: Facebook)

Subjects were assigned to groups that either met face-to-face or using computers. Then, they were tasked with negotiating for concert tickets, with the aim of making as much money as possible.

The study showed that people with "Dark Triad" traits were more successful at negotiating in person than online.

In fact, those who ranked lower on the DT spectrum did 12.5 per cent better in online negotiators than those who showed darker psychological traits.

"The results of this study are pretty clear — once you remove non-verbal cues such as body language from the question, the ability to smoke out narcissists and psychopaths becomes easier," Woodworth said.

"Once you remove non-verbal cues such as body language from the question, the ability to smoke out narcissists and psychopaths becomes easier."

This is far from the first study to offer insight into a psychopath's mind.

Last year, the University of Montreal published research showing that psychopaths can't learn from their crimes due to their brain structure.

Researchers found that they can't process punishment the same way as other people because of "structural abnormalities in both gray matter and specific white matter fiber tracts."

Gray matter is associated with traits such as guilt, embarrassment, and empathy, while white matter is linked to learning from rewards and punishment.

Psychopaths in that study showed "abnormal responding" to punishment. Researchers concluded that they may only think about the positive, and not the negative outcomes of their actions.

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