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Why do some people take pleasure in cruelty?

darksideDelroy Paulhus, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia in Canada studies the dark side of human beings to define the different flavors of everyday evil.

Paulhus has created a series of tests to identify people who have a “dark personality.” He works to answer the question: Why do some people take pleasure in cruelty? Not just psychopaths and murderers — but school bullies, internet trolls and even apparently upstanding members of society such as politicians and policemen.

Paulhus tends to focus on everyday evil rather than criminal or psychiatric cases. Others have called narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy the “Dark Triad,” which is a triple whammy of nastiness. Paulhus adds another category sadism — to form a “Dark Tetrad.”

Psychology: the man who studies everyday evil, from BBC Future.

 

Posted in: Scientific research

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34 Comments on "Why do some people take pleasure in cruelty?"

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Fascinating work!! Interestingly when I was in India for the holidays I met 18 out of the 24 classmates who went through our K to 10th graduating class. My ex was my classmate and I knew both him and his family for many years before we even became a couple. Most of my classmates lived very close to my private school. I did not. When talking to them about my divorce and how it all exploded, it was very interesting to hear the responses. A third of the people were NOT at all surprised. The common phrase I heard from them was that he was always sadistic!!! They had a good handle on the dark triad traits even though they did not peg it as a personality disorder per se. The other third said he put them off and they didn’t really know him that well. this was relevant because we are and were a close knit group. The others had my perception of him as being a soft spoken mild mannered family man and were shocked and experienced some of the same cognitive dissonance that I did after the mask dropped. My ex has ofcourse had NO contact with any of our friends or family for the past almost 5 years now. What is really interesting is that the group who like me was easily duped were the liberal arts group. Artists Homemakers, Social work (me) and authors. Ive been thinking of this for a while now and have kind of suggested this to one of the MSW candidates I supervise as a topic for a thesis. I’ll keep you posted on how we explore this further and if we do!! I would love to explore the traits of people who DO NOT get duped…there is a fair amount of literature on traits that victims posess!! if you have thoughts on this I would love to hear them!!

Regarding your question about traits of people who do not get duped. The INFJ personality type sees two sides to everyone. http://personalityjunkie.com/the-infj/

Wish those who insist that ‘there is some good in everyone’ would read this article.

Perhaps those who do not get duped by sociopaths are people who have well-defined boundaries of “acceptable” and “non-acceptable” behaviors. Victims all seem to share endless compassion between which doesn’t exist in sociopaths. Interesting subject.

Flicka, I think that our empathic nature certainly allows us to be vulnerable…that endless compassion allows us to be victimized while making excuses for them. Granted.
Boundaries…see my observation is that most people who do not engage with the disordered seem to almost have a shield around them that allows them to pick up on cues and vibes that then allow them to put their defenses up. These include some who are as empathetic and compassionate as most victims are. Yet there is something that gives them the ability to detect trouble. It may be the parenting they received, or their innate temperamental difference, previous life experience, or….Those are the issues and factors I am interested in exploring more of. So basically then, it is the factors that allow good boundary management and increase self worth, that we need to explore further.

agree with your preliminary thoughts…worth pursuing. ThANKS.

…or ignorance that such evil actually exists.

Hi Flicka, Steven Hassan author of Freedom of Mind is a cult & domestic abuse relationship expert who has been on CNN, FOX, 60 Mins, Dr Drew podcast etc…..he states that anyone and everyone can be sucked into a cult or domestic abusive relationship if they have recently had a life change such as going off to college, a divorce, a breakup, a job change, moving, death in the family….why this time? because your guard is down while you deal with all the new changes and emotional state that you are under.

Did you have a life change during the time you met your abuser?? Think about this question.

Remember 1 in 3 woman will be in a abusive relationship sometime during their life. These abusers are every where waiting to catch someone when their guard is down. The are con artist and can con anyone into their sick twisted game.

1 in 25 people are psychopath/sociopaths mainly men and 1 in 5 people 75% men are narcissist. These people are every where blending into society by mimicking peoples good traits in the beginning to suck them into their web of destruction. They literally mind control & brain wash their victims over time.

My ex h had a 100 people of all walks of life all following him & believing every word, when I finally escaped they did not believe I was abused why? because he fooled everyone!!! He could easy have a very very large cult following if he so desired.

I saw who he was the second I met him…I thought he was a tornado second impress of meeting him through a friend was he was crazy not crazy in a good fun way but CRAZY…I had my radar on high alert but let my guard down because he had so many friends & he was so manipulative with his lying words I though I was interpreting my feeling about him incorrectly plus I had just moved to a new state for a new job = changes in my life made it easy for him to slide right into my life at first then mind control me into his world with gas lighting abuse, reward & punishment techniques, brain washing, etc etc.

We must always be on guard with new people in this crazy world!!

Excellent thought…certainly applies to me. Thanks. (It was either marry him or begin life on my own.

I find it sad that we must be on guard with new people in this crazy world. Possibly the sign of the times but I remain convinced that the majority of human beings are inherently good. Naive? Or am I stuck in a fugue state of societal disconnect? Either way, I still find that mindset saddening. As is limiting oneself to a choice of marrying a sociopath or beginning a (new)life alone. Should our options be considered so infinitesimal when we are caught in the web of the spath? It becomes a complex mission to understand how the power of choice can be compromised so definitively. But complex it is.

As an old-timer (77 yrs. old), I have to admit that most of our society as a whole ( and much of the world which copies us)is becoming ever more psychotic as our foundation changes from being based on morality vs. the current adoration of money and what it buys. Along with this transformation, corruption, personal integrity and unaccountability flourishes and instead becomes venerated. It’s no wonder the rest of us get our guards up in defense.

Flicka….you go girl!!!! Anomalous at your age, it is a breath of fresh air to have you share your sagely opinion on the transformation of a society originally based on moralistic principles to one that covets wealth and it’s myriad of trappings. Not being familiar with your experience that brings you to the lovefraud.com blog, the “inflection” that resonated from your written dialogue left no margin for misinterpretation that you must have been victimized by a destructive relationship with a sociopath. Not having the luxury of your many years to draw from as a spectator of the degree of corruption, diminished personal integrity, and absence of accountability that you maintain has flourished in today’s society, I must take exception that it is venerated, or revered by the majority. And more so by sociopaths simply because they don’t care what we think.

Furthermore, it is my belief that spaths are lone wolves and not in allegiance with each other for us to categorize ourselves on that lofty precipice as “the rest of us.” If we are participating on this blog, we still may be living with the pain, anger, resentment, and all the other emotions that spath victimization leaves us with, but it is imperative for our recovery to cleanse ourselves of the self-deprecating term as a victim. If we allow considering ourselves as victims to linger too long, we are in danger of falling into the abyss of self-loathing and sabotaging our recovery. There is no such thing as a victim at this juncture. We are SURVIVORS and with that comes empowerment.

Donna Andersen says to truly get ourselves on the track, although arduous, we need to feel the pain and drain the emotions. In other words, embrace the symptoms and experience the liberation by allowing them to run their course. To suppress them allows the bruising to become more embedded in our psyche and thus, impedes the metamorphosis of a rejuvenated self.

As I stated earlier Flicka, I have no insight of a destructive relationship with a spath nor when it might have occurred. Your situation remains an anomaly to me and it is my hope that it was more recent than deep in the past. I suspect that you still carry the yoke of resentment and possibly an unresolved issue with your financial status. I would prefer, in this case, to be wrong, and that you blog with us from the cabin of your sailboat somewhere in the Caribbean. Or that you are in a position for philanthropic endeavors or enjoying it with a multitude of grand-children. Like I said earlier, you go girl!!! “Old-timer” just doesn’t seem to fit, but then again, I suppose my grandmother would say it’s only relative as to how you view yourself, and not that darn important.

My history; 23 yr. marriage to a sociopath followed by solitary raising of 5 beautiful children only to find they also, in midlife, became sociopaths. Memoire:”A Promising Life…A mother’s Nightmare”. Now elderly, disabled, abandoned (grandkids forbidden to see their grandmother etc!) Due to my ignorance and great love, they took all my money (accepted gifts of cars, t.v.’s, mortgages so they could buy lifetime businesses, I painted, cleaned and landscaped their homes ad infinitem, chosing to never accept what they had become.) I’ve now lost all I ever loved but maintain my integrity and strength and “survived” (though albeit damaged) despite 40 yrs. of living with excused sociopaths.
As for “we”, just look at our increasing political, financial degredation in every aspect of our lives critically. Their is no question in my mind where we’re unfortunately headed. They find strength in their core twisted groups or cults and erode our core values. Thanks, God bless you!

Flicka….are you the author of the Memoire: “A Promising Life….A Mother’s Nightmare?” If not, could you point me in the right direction where I might acquire a copy. I would love to read it. Thanks, may God bless you as well.

also flicka, I was raised an agnostic — but I feel in my heart and I believe!!!! we will live to see Him Come and there will be a Better Day.

Please tahe this gift of love from me and we will sip this Wine together. I do no longer feel alone and you even have my beloved former (lost) mare’s bname.

So flicka — here He Is. All we need is two. One is all I can give you …. and all that I need, is You. Just You, Only You, and so I CHOOSE you and FOREVER you will be MY family.

Here is the ring. O I promise to love you and protect you with all of my heart and soul. Until death we do part ….

and Far Beyond.

I love you, please take my ring and remember my vow.

ps, I haven’t had sex in a long time unless you count the ass-kicking? so … this will have to be a Marriage of the Heart.

And a FUNNY one too, or so it’s hoped. 🙂

It is TRULY — and I mean TOTALLY !!!!!!

a gay marriage. It is legal in my state, and who cares if it is or not, ha ha. 🙂

Enjoy your LIFE and NEVER forget me.

NoContact is my poster name but my style is ALL contact. So is yours — so reach out your hand to mine. And no kidding! sparks will FLY in the STARS!~! and just a little bit of the DARKNESS…

it will be gone for good. We do not suffer in vain nor are we alone. I am sure of it, SURE of it, and so I send ALL MY SURENESS — to you. xox

Dear flicka,

I am 62, married 30 years, separated since 2010 with two beautiful daughters, one definitely headed for Spathtown.

Please know that I have received much wisdom from you and will keep you in mind if it happens, as I am braced for.

Please also know, I know you gave it your best, please know that I did too ! and also, that I will be leaning on your invisible shoulders, in the years ahead.

love from n/c xox

Flicka….George Bailey vs Old man Potter in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life comes to mind regarding your statement:

“…changes from being based on morality vs. the current adoration of money and what it buys”

Thanks; that must be where my thought/philosophy began and I had forgotten. Thought it was an original thought….LOL!

Hi Flicka, I want you to know I didn’t mean it like that…should have said my favorite movie is It’s A Wonderful Life & is an example of what you stated.

Ironically I watched It’s A wonderful Life every year at Christmas when I was married with my ex h sociopath (looking back now regretfully), of course he never got the true meaning of the movie as he was living in the Porterville type World (very sociopathic) while I in the George Bailey type world. It’s interesting that the movie was made 70 years ago (??) but it exactly how our world is today = Pottersville. The shift like you stated from the 40’s to 2014 has been extreme and really does look like it moved from a Bailey society to a pottersville society. Sad.

Like you stated “our foundation changes from being based on morality vs. the current adoration of money and what it buys.”

Maybe the next world we go to after this one is more like the George Bailey world that all the good people here deserve.

Love your analogy and absolutely no offense taken Jan.7. Just glad you got my point; whether accurate or not, only time will tell. Yes, a George Bailey world would be wonderful where everyone had kindness in their hearts and where personal integrity had value. Best wishes to you.

When I first read the above glad-handing exchange between Jan7 and Flicka over the virtues of a George Bailey-based society in counterpoint to evil slumlord/power banker Henry Potter’s world of conspiratorial greed from the erroneously labeled Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” I thought I was going to start pulling my hair out. And I visualized even the most common borderline sociopaths on the planet licking their chops in predatorial glee. Come on gals, what’s next, a clinical analysis of Kris Kringle, Granville Sawyer, and Judge Henry X. Harper from the truly iconic holiday movie “Miracle on 34th Street?” We are here at lovefraud.com to share, educate, and facilitate recovery and the rebirth of real flesh-and-blood human beings who have survived the wrecking ball onslaught of relationships with true-to-life alienated/aggressive sociopaths. R.I.P. Siskel and Ebert.

But then it occurred to me that I was the one missing the point. No one appointed me to be judge and jury of the manner and stage of recovery (and the difficult journey required) of fellow blog-mates Jan7 and Flicka. A glance in the mirror made me understand just how threateningly close spath mentality lurks and how grateful I am for these two courageous women (and all the others) who have chosen to stand tall, fight back, and lock arms against the abuse and cruelness perpetrated by the legions of sociopaths and the destruction they leave in their wake.

The words shared between Flicka and Jan7 are ones of pure kindness and concern for each other, and I applaud the robust state they realize in reclaiming ownership of their lives. Kudos for the hope and inspiration you represent.

Zoarjoy…WOW really WOW at your back handed comments which you initially belittle us then you somehow manipulatively spin it to some what look like your going for a positive comment. Interesting my ex h did the same type of manipulation and my counselor told me he was psychopath with narcissist traits.

IF you were actually abused by a sociopath you would see the irony in the movie….you would see George Bailey as the good normal mind person wanting good for the society he lives in and you would see Potter is a sociopath with narcissistic traits who does not care about society but only himself/his needs, who loves the town going chaotic, dysfunctional, drama filled that he creates so that society is to busy trying to deal with their crazy lives and no one is looking at his manipulation of them (buying bank accounts for half price, renting slums at high prices, bars, allowing prostitution in town etc) so that he can become even richer off of them not watching him. This is exactly what sociopaths do to others = create chaos, drama, manipulative games to win at all accounts and this is what Old man Potter does to his own town.

Potter’s world is the world all of the victims at LF were living in with their crazy sociopath in their lives and now they are educated thanks to LF & now want their old George Bailey peaceful & calm world that they were part of before the sociopath crazy person entered their life back.

Open your mind via educating yourself on sociopathic behavior you to will see the truth about this world…and that is others in this world long before the victims of LF were abused by sociopaths were abused themselves and these people have left a trail of bread crumbs for us to learn from. The movie It’s a Wonderful Life is one of those bread crumbs. YES it would have been easier if the movie writer would have used the words sociopath/psychopath to describe Potter but they did not so with all the knowledge you learn at LF you yourself will need to analyze your life around you to see all of the sociopaths/psychopaths/narcissist not only walking the streets but in movies/on tv too.

BTW Star Wars is another example of a sociopath narcissist = darth vadar & many famous literary pieces of work warn us of sociopath/psychopathic traits, behavior and the trail of destruction that is left in their wake even the Bible warns us in passages.

In any event, the problem is that they look and act like Bailey and turn out to be Potter later on. If they had walked in as Potter, that would have been easy, right? so the challenge has been:

how do we know a real Bailey from a fake?

are they all like dolls? are they real? has the shift in female rights made them enraged?!

how is this supposed to be done, I wonder? I understand how flicka’s life turned out and seem to be headed in the right way, I figure I can adopt her Serenity — but how is it supposed to be done the right way, I wonder? in a world filled with such artifice and illness. Is anyone safe?

for flicka personally and me, I cured that problem a couple of houros ago, by marrying HER MYSELF. The fact I did not propose nor has she met me nor had any chance to say No? hell, isn’t that what our Society has inclined us toward?

flicka, the good news is, I am writing on these pages and for a good reason. I weigh less than 110 pounds now and I should weigh 140. It is hard to eat when one is so alone, I struggle toward it daily. RE agent and long-time legal worker, I am fried. The kids ?? they are really the Nails in my Coffin. The spath? he is a man, I did not expect much (sad to say).

No Contact, you ask “how do we know a real Bailey from a fake?”…the only way = listen to your initial gut reaction to someone. I read a study that within 11 seconds a human can determine if someone is trust worthy or not. The problem is for polite society reasons we do not listen to our gut reaction instead we are nice to people we should not be = sociopaths.

What would you do if you were dropped into the safari of Africa? Would you be polite to the lion walking towards you? NO, This fear base response is how we must react to meeting a new person especially a man. 1 in 25 people mainly men are sociopaths/psychopaths & 1 in 5 75% men are narcissist. Experts believe that we have a sociopath in our circle of friends/family/coworkers and that we meet one in passing every day. SCARY!!! YOU must be on your guard and dont weaver from your initial gut reaction of someone. In addition you must be throughly educated on the traits of a sociopath and their manipulative games such as gas lighting abuse, reward and punishment, trying changing your habits, using a back handed complement, installing fear & phobia’s into your mind etc.

50% of marriages fail….76% of divorces are filed by the wife. The question you have to ask yourself when meeting a new divorced guy is why did his wife divorce him? was it because they grew apart or was it because he is a narcissist/sociopath pretending to be a good guy?

I believe if you really sat down and thought about the red flags you ignore when you first met your sociopath you would see that you chose to ignore those red flags/were not educated to understand his behavior but never the less the red flags were there the whole time. I know I saw the red flags right from the second I met my ex. Why did I ignore the red flags? because his behavior was confusing, I was not educated, I saw that he had a lot of friends so I thought I was miss reading my gut etc.

To learn to follow your gut google “Oprah Gavin Debecker you tube” to watch Gavin’s book author of Gift Of Fear interview. His book is a must read for every woman.

Sure NOW ya tell me. where the heck were you in 1982 when I KNEW it all??? Hmm. “Wish I didn’t know now, what I didn’t know then.” xox N/C

Beyond the Tongue in Cheek however, OF COURSE you are right, and I knew he was weird from the start.

Mine is a very short story. And a familiar story for early 80’s.

I wanted babies, and he was willing. There you go.

It was a different time. We pretended not to care about the other women in their lives. “Can’t we just be spontaneous?” they would cry. and so we pretended.

At girlfriends’ weddings, we wept. Eventually they stopped inviting us to their own friends’ weddings, those men of ours. It was just “another occasion” to have “THE FIGHT.”

My spath said Yes and SNICK! there went the rest of my life. He wasn’t pretty, he was not classy. HE SAID YES.

From Askville:

The Backhanded Compliments
A backhanded compliment or left-handed compliment or asteism is an insult disguised as a compliment. It is generally used to belittle or condescend, or often one uses a backhanded compliment when one wants to insult someone in a subtle way.[1]
[edit] Usage

An example of a backhanded compliment would be to tell a woman “I like your dress very much. It does wonders for your figure.” This statement would seem on the surface to compliment the woman’s choice in clothing, and perhaps even her figure, but closer examination reveals its true meaning: that the woman’s figure is unattractive and needs improvement from clothing. This statement is not a compliment to the woman, but to the garment’s ability to slenderize.

Sometimes a backhanded compliment is obvious, combining an obvious compliment with an equally obvious insult. For example, one might say “You are an excellent artist, which is a relief considering what an incompetent cook you are!” In this way no part of the intent is made less obvious, but the severity of the insult may still be lessened enough to make the entire statement seem like a compliment.

Examples: “I want to be just like you when I get old”; “You’re not as dumb as I thought.”

I can top that. My father-in-law’s mummified girlfriend (I swear she was taken directly from one of the pyramids but performed Jack Lalaine exercises every single day so that she was as supple and graceful as a kitten) once told me, as my hair lay around my shoulders in a curly dark mass:

I really like your hair when you wear it up.

I BURST OUT LAUGHING!!!! and never saw her wrinkled face again. That woman??? HAD NEVER SMILED. From the neck down, a gymnast from Russia, age of about 13 or 14. From the neck up? Crypt Keeper, all the way. I could think of nothing to say … so I laughed. Needless to say….

she was not amused. 🙂

Grandpa was already 94 and I don’t think he noticed. lol.

My story just would not be complete without adding that 94 year old Grandpa and his 100++++ year old girlfriend ….

well — they were busted with the Viagara bottle, guys. Yes, they were. And it was not coordinate with his heart medications so my spath’s sister made him stop. At last count (before it was mercifully over, while I wondered why the sister was bothering these old people that way??) the girlfriend, who had obtained the Viagara prescription through entering fraudulent data on her computer (!) had then been supplying herbal treatments instead.

It was so funny I thought I would die laughing!! but my sister in law gravely interfered. Now c’mon ladies…if we make it to 1000 years old, are we gonna want our lover’s kid telling us not to feed Viagiara (or herbals or whatever) to our 94 year old lover? OF COURSE NOT. ha ha ha ha.

Dear Zoarjoy, The memoires “A Promising Life…A Mother’s Nightmare” was initially suggested by Dr. Mary Ellen O’Toole; at first I rejected the thought as ridiculous but, after a year or so, decided to give it a try and am now editing it…no fun. It has been amazingly cathartic to relive my wonderful youth, to bring back many long-forgotten (suppressed?) memories and to finally and objectively see/explain patterns and conclusions. It’s amazing how a victim’s otherwise clear mind becomes “warped” after decades surrounded by sociopaths. Now I’m still debating whether to e-publish it or just retain it as my personal Band-Aid to healing.
Thank you for your understanding, kind words.

Dear zoarjoy,

You said:

But then it occurred to me that I was the one missing the point.

I’m glad you saw that. thank you. xox Love from N/C

In one of her/his comments, NC said you wish you didn’t know now what you didn’t know then. I believe all victims go through this, a longing for the sweet, innocent lives we once remember. But learning is a lifelong process and not always a happy one…just inevitable. Knowledge can never be looked upon as a negative…we must use it to try and pass on the acquired knowledge to anyone willing to listen. And it does have a positive…we do regain our former selves and integrity and that does bring along a certain peace to our destroyed souls. I have framed the poem “The Man In the Glass” and have it hanging on my wall as my motto for life and peace. Should I ever have moments of questioning, the “Serenity” poem absolves me from any guilt and tells me to just let it go and accept what no one can change. I wish peace and compassion to all victims.

how incredibly wise and right Flicka!!!

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