Dark personality traits and deception, and the short dark tetrad (SD4) as integrity screening instrument

Eric Rassin*, Melissa de Roos, Josanne van Dongen

*Corresponding author for this work

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Dark personality traits (Machiavellianism, Narcissism, Psychopathy, and Sadism) have been associated with aversive, unethical, and criminal conduct. Concise measurement tools such as the Short Dark Tetrad (SD4) are popular, because they lend themselves as screening instruments. As such, the scores on these scales are used in various decision-making contexts, and they can have considerable effects on the lives of people who display an unfortunate scoring pattern. The present study explored to what extent high SD4 scores are actually predictive of deceptive behaviour in a matrix puzzle task, in a general community sample (N = 751). Results indicated that 9.9% of participants lied, that is, exaggerated their performance on the matrix task, hoping to increase their likelihood of financial reward. These cheating participants scored higher on all four dark traits. Nonetheless, the overlap between SD4 distributions made it impossible to determine cut-off scores in an attempt to consider scores as actual predictors of deception proneness. When framed in likelihoods, some scores can be diagnostic of deception proneness. Particularly in the context of statement validity assessment, characterized by tools with modest to poor accuracy, SD4 scores may add to diagnostic accuracy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number311
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jan 2024

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