People who like watching on-screen baddies including Darth Vader and The Matrix’s Mr Smith are more likely to be villainous themselves, study claims
- Scientists looked at relationship between villains and people who like them
- Found people who prefer villains to heroes have a ‘dark triad’ personality
- This includes scoring highly for Machiavellianism, psychopathy and narcissism
- Young males were the most likely to feel positive about villains, mostly due to their increased likelihood of having dark triad traits
From Cruella De Vil to Darth Vader, some of the most iconic characters in movie history have been the villains.
Now, a new study has revealed that people who prefer fictional villains to heroes are more likely to be villainous themselves.
In the study, the team found that people who prefer villains often fit into the so-called ‘dark triad’ of personality traits, scoring high for narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy.
‘Some individuals may come to engage positively with villainous characters because they are like them, that is, because they share the villains’ immoral outlook to some degree,’ the researchers write.
Scroll down for video
People who prefer fictional villains to heroes do so because they share similar personality traits to the antagonist, researchers have found. Pictured, Star Wars baddie, Darth Vader
The study, led by Aarhus University, has been published in the peer-reviewed journal Poetics.
More than 1,000 people from North America were given questionnaires to fill out on their personality and views towards fictional characters.
They were asked to think about specific villains that spring to their mind as well as three well-known controls, Mr Smith from the Matrix franchise, Mystique from the X-men and Darth Vader of Star Wars infamy.
They had to respond to certain statements and indicate how much they agreed. These included: ‘I tend to want the villain to succeed in achieving his or her goals’ and ‘I tend to feel I have a better understanding of the hero than of the villain’.
It found strong links between people who scored highly for the ‘dark triad’ trait, particularly Machiavellianism and psychopathy.
In a scientific study the researchers found people who prefer villains often fit into the so-called ‘dark triad’ of personality traits, scoring high for narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy. Picturred, Mystique, Magneto and Pyro, villains from X-Men franchise
‘Narcissism describes a grandiose and entitled interpersonal style whereby one feels superior to others and craves validation (‘ego-reinforcement’),’ the researchers write.
‘Machiavellianism describes a manipulative interpersonal style characterized by duplicity, cynicism, and selfish ambition.
‘Psychopathy describes low self-control and a callous interpersonal style aimed at immediate gratification.’
The researchers found that people expressing dark traits are more likely to feel positive about villains, and feel enjoyment, identification, fascination, and empathy towards them. Pictured, The Matrix bad guy Mr Smith
The researchers found that people expressing these dark traits are indeed more likely to feel positive about villains, and feel enjoyment, identification, fascination, and empathy towards them.
‘In general, males were more prone to experience the various forms of villain positivity,’ they added.
‘Young males in particular reported high levels of villain positivity, which appears largely to be a function of their particularly high levels of dark personality traits.’
WHAT IS THE ‘DARK TRIAD’?
The dark triad is a name given to three personality traits: narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism
The dark triad is a name given to three personality traits: narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism.
When all three traits are found in a single person, it implies a malevolent personality.
All three dark triad traits are conceptually distinct, but have been shown to have an overlap.
Narcissism is characterised by grandiosity, pride, egotism, and a lack of empathy.
Machiavellianism is characterised by manipulation and exploitation of others. It is also often linked to a cynical disregard for morality, and a focus on self-interest and deception.
Psychopathy is characterised by continuing antisocial behaviour, impulsivity, selfishness, callousness, and remorselessness.