Why Are There So Many Jerks In The World?


The dark triad and the evolutionary psychology of selfish behavior:

Our evolved psychology includes some conspicuous paradoxes. For instance: If people generally prefer romantic and social partners who are warm, kind, and other-oriented, then why is the world filled with so many jerks?*  We don’t like jerks. Simply stated, we like nice people. As a result, having a reputation as being nice can lead someone to experience various beneficial outcomes such as earning promotions at work or winning elections. The evolutionary perspective on social strategies can be understood in terms of strategic pluralism, the idea that multiple behavioral strategies can evolve alongside one another, leading to adaptive benefits via different paths. (A) cutting-edge trend in the field of evolutionary psychology that focuses on one particular social strategy is found in work on the Dark Triad, three personality traits that, in combination, facilitate self-interested behavioral strategies. These traits include narcissism (an excessive focus on oneself), Machiavellianism (a proclivity to manipulate others for one’s own gain), and psychopathy (a full-out disregard for the feelings of others). Measures of the Dark Triad strongly predict a broad suite of outcomes, suggesting that the Dark Triad is something of a ubiquitous feature of our evolved psychology. Scoring high on measures of the Dark Triad corresponds to being relatively promiscuous in one’s attitudes and behaviors. Women who score high on the Dark Triad are relatively likely to report having a backup boyfriend. Those who score high on the Dark Triad have a high number of estrangements in their social world. Those who score high on the Dark Triad respond very negatively when being insulted, often plotting revenge. In a species in which goodness and self-sacrifice are regularly underscored, why are there so many selfish individuals who use their power to step on and intimidate others? More often than not, such individuals show the hallmarks of the Dark Triad. Understanding this behavioral approach in evolutionary perspective gives us a birds-eye view of the self-promotional, dark approach to life. 

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