Are Those with Darker Personality Traits more Willing to Corrupt When They Feel Anxious?

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Department of Accounting, Sirjan Branch, Islamic Azad University, Sirjan, Iran

2 Department of Accounting, Central Tehran Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran


This unprecedented research endeavors to investigate the relationship between dark personality traits (i.e., narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy) and corruption intention through the mediation of anxiety.  Based on the resource conservation theory, it is hypothesized that those higher in dark personality traits are more inclined to corrupt when they feel anxious. Having collected data in the south of Iran from 273 employees of various organizations at two-time points in 2017 and 2018, five months apart, the authors conducted confirmatory factor analysis and used Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) to acquire the results. In Formative SEM, sub-constructs are considered separately since they may have diverse effects and causes, and hence, require to be considered as disparate variables (Srivastava et al. 2001) and this method is used in various studies in high-quality journals (e.g., Tang et al., 2018; Gentina et l., 2018; Gentina & Tang, 2018). In the formative SEM model, based on the data analysis, Dark Triad was formed through high narcissism and Machiavellianism and low psychopathy.  The findings revealed that the Dark Triad bears a significant indirect positive relationship with corruption intention through anxiety. Anxiety acts as a full mediator between Dark Triad and corruption intention. All in all, this study extended previous research by providing evidence that anxiety can contribute to corruption intention for those with Dark Triad traits.


Main Subjects

Agbiboa, D. E. (2012). Between corruption and development: The political economy of state robbery in Nigeria. Journal of Business Ethics108(3), 325-345.
Agbo, A. A., & Iwundu, E. I. (2016). Corruption as a propensity: Personality and motivational determinants among Nigerians. The Journal of Psychology150(4), 502-526.
Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational behavior and human decision processes50(2), 179-211.
Arjmand, R. (2016). Public urban space, gender and segregation: Women-only urban parks in Iran. London & New York: Routledge.
Bajaj, B., Robins, R. W., & Pande, N. (2016). Mediating role of self-esteem on the relationship between mindfulness, anxiety, and depression. Personality and Individual Differences96, 127-131.‏
Baka, L. (2018). When do “the dark personalities” becomes less counterproductive? The moderating role of job control and social support. International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics, 24(4), 557-569.
Baker, H. K., Filbeck, G., & Ricciardi, V. (Eds.). (2017). Financial Behavior: Players, services, products, and markets. Oxford University Press, NY.‏
Barnett, M. D., & Womack, P. M. (2015). Fearing, not loving, the reflection: Narcissism, self-esteem, and self-discrepancy theory. Personality and Individual Differences74, 280-284.‏
Bereczkei, T. (2015). The manipulative skill: Cognitive devices and their neural correlates underlying Machiavellian’s decision making. Brain and Cognition99, 24-31.‏
Bereczkei, T., & Czibor, A. (2014). Personality and situational factors differently influence high Mach and low Mach persons’ decisions in a social dilemma game. Personality and Individual Differences64, 168-173.
Boudreaux, C. J., Nikolaev, B. N., & Holcombe, R. G. (2018). Corruption and destructive entrepreneurship. Small Business Economics51(1), 181-202.
Brislin, R. W. (1970). Back-translation for cross-cultural research. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 1, 185–216. 135910457000100301
Brown, R. P., Budzek, K., & Tamborski, M. (2009). On the meaning and measure of narcissism. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin35(7), 951-964.
Buelow, M. T., & Brunell, A. B. (2014). Facets of grandiose narcissism predict involvement in health-risk behaviors. Personality and Individual Differences69, 193-198.
Buss, D. M. (1991). Evolutionary personality psychology. Annual review of psychology42(1), 459-491.
Carver, C. S., Lawrence, J. W., & Scheier, M. F. (1999). Self-discrepancies and affect: Incorporating the role of feared selves. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin25(7), 783-792.‏
Cheng, B. H., & McCarthy, J. M. (2018). Understanding the dark and bright sides of anxiety: A theory of workplace anxiety. Journal of Applied Psychology, 103(5), 537-560.
Christie, R. & Geis, F. (1970). Studies in Machiavellianism. New York: Academic Press.
Cohen, A. (2016). Are they among us? A conceptual framework of the relationship between the Dark Triad personality and counterproductive work behaviors (CWBs). Human Resource Management Review26(1), 69-85.
Coid, J., Yang, M., Ullrich, S., Roberts, A., Moran, P., Bebbington, P., ... & Singleton, N. (2009). Psychopathy among prisoners in England and Wales. International journal of law and psychiatry32(3), 134-141.
Czibor, A., Szabo, Z. P., Jones, D. N., Zsido, A. N., Paal, T., Szijjarto, L., ... & Bereczkei, T. (2017). Male and female face of Machiavellianism: Opportunism or anxiety? Personality and Individual Differences117, 221-229.‏
Deak, A., Bodrogi, B., Biro, B., Perlaki, G., Orsi, G., & Bereczkei, T. (2017). Machiavellian emotion regulation in a cognitive reappraisal task: An fMRI study. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience17(3), 528-541.‏
DeShong, H. L., Grant, D. M., & Mullins-Sweatt, S. N. (2015). Comparing models of counterproductive workplace behaviors: The Five-Factor Model and the Dark Triad. Personality and Individual Differences74, 55-60.
DeShong, H. L., Helle, A. C., Lengel, G. J., Meyer, N., & Mullins-Sweatt, S. N. (2017). Facets of the Dark Triad: Utilizing the five-factor model to describe Machiavellianism. Personality and Individual Differences105, 218-223.
Dickinson, K. A., & Pincus, A. L. (2003). Interpersonal analysis of grandiose and vulnerable narcissism. Journal of Personality Disorders17(3), 188-207.‏
Djeriouat, H., & Trémolière, B. (2014). The Dark Triad of personality and utilitarian moral judgment: The mediating role of Honesty/Humility and Harm/Care. Personality and Individual Differences, 67, 11-16.‏
Egan, V., Hughes, N., & Palmer, E. J. (2015). Moral disengagement, the Dark Triad, and unethical consumer attitudes. Personality and Individual Differences76, 123-128.
Espinoza, F. A., Vergara, V. M., Reyes, D., Anderson, N. E., Harenski, C. L., Decety, J., ... & Koenigs, M. (2018). Aberrant functional network connectivity in psychopathy from a large (N= 985) forensic sample. Human brain mapping39(6), 2624-2634.
Flannelly, K. J. (2017). Religious Beliefs, Evolutionary Psychiatry, and Mental Health in America. New York: Springer.‏
Frick, P. J., Lilienfeld, S. O., Ellis, M., Loney, B., & Silverthorn, P. (1999). The association between anxiety and psychopathy dimensions in children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology27(5), 383-392.
Gentina, E., & Tang, T. L. P. (2018). Does adolescent popularity mediate relationships between both theory of mind and love of money and consumer ethics? Applied Psychology67(4), 723-767.
Gentina, E., Tang, T. L. P., & Gu, Q. (2018). Do parents and peers influence adolescents’ monetary intelligence and consumer ethics? French and Chinese adolescents and behavioral economics. Journal of Business Ethics151(1), 115-140.
Gray JA. (1991). Neural systems, emotion, and personality. In J. Madden IV (Ed.), Neurobiology of Learning, Emotion, and Affect  (pp. 273–306). New York: Raven‏
Greenberg, J., Solomon, S., Pyszczynski, T., Rosenblatt, A., Burling, J., Lyon, D., ... & Pinel, E. (1992). Why do people need self-esteem? Converging evidence that self-esteem serves an anxiety-buffering function. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology63(6), 913-922.‏
Grijalva, E., Newman, D. A., Tay, L., Donnellan, M. B., Harms, P. D., Robins, R. W., & Yan, T. (2015). Gender differences in narcissism: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin141(2), 261-310.‏
Hare, R. D. (1999). Without conscience: The disturbing world of the psychopaths among us. Guilford Press.
Hare, R. D. (2003). The psychopathy checklist–Revised. Toronto, ON,.
Higgins, E. T. (1987). Self-discrepancy: a theory relating self and affect. Psychological Review94(3), 319-340.‏
Higgins, E. T., Klein, R., & Strauman, T. (1985). Self-concept discrepancy theory: A psychological model for distinguishing among different aspects of depression and anxiety. Social Cognition3(1), 51-76.‏
Hobfoll, S. E. (1988). The ecology of stress. New York: Hemisphere.
Hobfoll, S. E. (1989). Conservation of resources: A new attempt at conceptualizing stress. American Psychologist44(3), 513-524.
Holmgreen, L., Tirone, V., Gerhart, J., & Hobfoll, S. E. (2017). Conservation of resources theory. In Cooper, C. & Quick, J. C. (Eds.),  The handbook of stress and health: A guide to research and practice (pp. 443-457). New Delhi, India : John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
House, R. J., Hanges, P. J., Javidan, M., Dorfman, P. W., & Gupta, V. (Eds.). (2004). Culture, leadership, and organizations: The GLOBE study of 62 societies. London, UK: Sage publications.
Hyatt, C. S., Sleep, C. E., Lynam, D. R., Widiger, T. A., Campbell, W. K., & Miller, J. D. (2018). Ratings of affective and interpersonal tendencies differ for grandiose and vulnerable narcissism: A replication and extension of Gore and Widiger (2016). Journal of Personality86(3), 422-434.‏
Javidan, M., & Dastmalchian, A. (2003). Culture and leadership in Iran: The land of individual achievers, strong family ties, and powerful elite. Academy of Management Perspectives17(4), 127-142.
Jonason, P. K., & Webster, G. D. (2010). The dirty dozen: A concise measure of the Dark Triad. Psychological Assessment22(2), 420-432.
Jones, D. N. (2013). What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine: The Dark Triad and gambling with your neighbor’s money. Journal of Research in Personality47(5), 563-571.
Jones, D. N., & Neria, A. L. (2015). The Dark Triad and dispositional aggression. Personality and Individual Differences, 86, 360-364.
Jones, D. N., & Paulhus, D. L. (2009). Machiavellianism. In M. R. Leary & R. H. Hoyle (Eds.), Handbook of individual differences in social behavior (pp. 93-108). New York, NY, US: Guilford Press.
Jones, D. N., & Paulhus, D. L. (2011). The role of impulsivity in the Dark Triad of personality. Personality and Individual Differences51(5), 679-682.
Jones, D. N., & Paulhus, D. L. (2014). Introducing the short Dark Triad (SD3) a brief measure of dark personality traits. Assessment21(1), 28-41.
Karpman, B. (1948). The myth of the psychopathic personality. American Journal of Psychiatry104(9), 523-534.
Kish-Gephart, J. J., Harrison, D. A., & Treviño, L. K. (2010). Bad apples, bad cases, and bad barrels: Meta-analytic evidence about sources of unethical decisions at work. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(1), 1-31.
Köbis N.C., Van Prooijen, J.-W., Righetti, F., & Van Lange, P., A., M. (2015). “Who doesn’t?”—The impact of descriptive norms on corruption. PLoS ONE 10(6): e0131830.
Kouchaki, M., & Desai, S. D. (2015). Anxious, threatened, and also unethical: How anxiety makes individuals feel threatened and commit unethical acts. Journal of Applied Psychology100(2), 360-375.
Kreis, M. K., & Cooke, D. J. (2012). The manifestation of psychopathic traits in women: An exploration using case examples. International journal of forensic mental health11(4), 267-279.
Kubak, F. A., & Salekin, R. T. (2009). Psychopathy and anxiety in children and adolescents: New insights on developmental pathways to offending. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment31(4), 271-284.
Lakey, C. E., Kernis, M. H., Heppner, W. L., & Lance, C. E. (2008). Individual differences in authenticity and mindfulness as predictors of verbal defensiveness. Journal of Research in Personality42(1), 230-238.
Lee, A., & Hankin, B. L. (2009). Insecure attachment, dysfunctional attitudes, and low self-esteem predicting prospective symptoms of depression and anxiety during adolescence. Journal of clinical child & Adolescent Psychology, 38(2), 219-231.
Lilienfeld, S. O., & Penna, S. (2001). Anxiety sensitivity: Relations to psychopathy, DSM-IV personality disorder features, and personality traits. Journal of Anxiety Disorders15(5), 367-393.
Lykken, D. T. (1957). A study of anxiety in the sociopathic personality. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 55(1), 6-10.
Malesza, M., & Ostaszewski, P. (2016). The utility of the Dark Triad model in the prediction of the self-reported and behavioral risk-taking behaviors among adolescents. Personality and Individual Differences, 90, 7-11.
Manley, H., Roberts, R., Beattie, S., & Woodman, T. (2018). I'll get there because I'm great, or am I? Narcissistic vulnerability moderates the narcissistic grandiosity–goal persistence relationship. Personality and Individual Differences120, 65-74.‏
Marteau, T. M., & Bekker, H. (1992). The development of a six-item short-form of the state scale of the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). British Journal of Clinical Psychology31(3), 301-306.
McHoskey, J. W., Worzel, W., & Szyarto, C. (1998). Machiavellianism and psychopathy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology74(1), 192-210.
Mead, N. L., Baumeister, R. F., Stuppy, A., & Vohs, K. D. (2018). Power increases the socially toxic component of narcissism among individuals with high baseline testosterone. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General147(4), 591-596.
Miller, D. J., & Robertson, D. P. (2010). Using a games console in the primary classroom: Effects of ‘Brain Training’programme on computation and self-esteem. British Journal of Educational Technology41(2), 242-255.‏
Miller, J. D., Hoffman, B. J., Gaughan, E. T., Gentile, B., Maples, J., & Keith Campbell, W. (2011). Grandiose and vulnerable narcissism: A nomological network analysis. Journal of Personality79(5), 1013-1042.‏
Moffitt, T. E. (2003). Life-course-persistent and adolescence-limited antisocial behavior: A 10-year research review and a research agenda. In B. B. Lahey, T. E. Moffitt, & A. Caspi (Eds.), Causes of conduct disorder and juvenile delinquency (pp. 49-75). New York, NY, US: Guilford Press.
Monaghan, C., Bizumic, B., & Sellbom, M. (2016). The role of Machiavellian views and tactics in psychopathology. Personality and Individual Differences94, 72-81.
Morais, P., Miguéis, V. L., & Camanho, A. (2017, May). Exploring the Relationship between Corruption and Health Care Services, Education Services and Standard of Living. In International Conference on Exploring Services Science (pp. 87-100). Springer, Cham.
Muris, P., Meesters, C., Van Melick, M., & Zwambag, L. (2001). Self-reported attachment style, attachment quality, and symptoms of anxiety and depression in young adolescents. Personality and Individual Differences, 30(5), 809-818.
O’brien, R. M. (2007). A caution regarding rules of thumb for variance inflation factors. Quality & quantity41(5), 673-690.
Ogilvie, D. M. (1987). The undesired self: A neglected variable in personality research. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology52(2), 379-385.
Pacheco-Unguetti, A. P., Acosta, A., Callejas, A., & Lupiáñez, J. (2010). Attention and anxiety: Different attentional functioning under state and trait anxiety. Psychological Science21(2), 298-304.‏
Paspalanov, I. (1984). The relation of nAch to extraversion, emotional instability and level of anxiety in people of different social status and success. Personality and individual differences5(4), 383-388.
Paulhus, D. L., & Williams, K. M. (2002). The Dark Triad of personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Journal of Research in Personality36(6), 556-563.
Pinto, J., Leana, C. R., & Pil, F. K. (2008). Corrupt organizations or organizations of corrupt individuals? Two types of organization-level corruption. Academy of Management Review33(3), 685-709.
Rachman, S. (2004). Fear of contamination. Behaviour research and therapy42(11), 1227-1255.‏
Raskin, R. N., & Hall, C. S. (1979). A narcissistic personality inventory. Psychological Reports, 45(2), 590.
Roeser, K., McGregor, V. E., Stegmaier, S., Mathew, J., Kübler, A., & Meule, A. (2016). The Dark Triad of personality and unethical behavior at different times of day. Personality and Individual Differences88, 73-77.
Salekin, R. T., Trobst, K. K., & Krioukova, M. (2001). Construct validity of psychopathy in a community sample: A nomological net approach. Journal of personality disorders15(5), 425-441.
Schutte, N. S., Malouff, J. M., Bobik, C., Coston, T. D., Greeson, C., Jedlicka, C., ... & Wendorf, G. (2001). Emotional intelligence and interpersonal relations. The Journal of Social Psychology141(4), 523-536.‏
Schutte, N. S., Malouff, J. M., Thorsteinsson, E. B., Bhullar, N., & Rooke, S. E. (2007). A meta-analytic investigation of the relationship between emotional intelligence and health. Personality and Individual Differences42(6), 921-933.‏
Sevecke, K., Lehmkuhl, G., & Krischer, M. K. (2009). Examining relations between psychopathology and psychopathy dimensions among adolescent female and male offenders. European child & adolescent psychiatry18(2), 85-95.
Shapiro, G. K., & Burchell, B. J. (2012). Measuring financial anxiety. Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics, 5(2), 92.
Sherry, D. L., Sherry, S. B., Vincent, N. A., Stewart, S. H., Hadjistavropoulos, H. D., Doucette, S., & Hartling, N. (2014). Anxious attachment and emotional instability interact to predict health anxiety: An extension of the interpersonal model of health anxiety. Personality and Individual Differences56, 89-94.
Smith, C. A., & Ellsworth, P. C. (1985). Patterns of cognitive appraisal in emotion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48(4), 813-838.
Sobhani, M., & Bechara, A. (2011). A somatic marker perspective of immoral and corrupt behavior. Social Neuroscience6(5-6), 640-652.
Tang, T. L. P., Sutarso, T., Ansari, M. A., et al. (2018). Monetary intelligence and behavioral economics across 32 cultures: Good apples enjoy good quality of life in good barrels. Journal of Business Ethics, 148 (4), 893-917.
Transparency International. Corruption perceptions index 2016. (2018). @ https://www. (accessed 190218)
Weiss, H. M., & Cropanzano, R. (1996). Affective Events Theory: A theoretical discussion of the structure, causes and consequences of affective experiences at work. In B. M. Staw & L. L. Cummings (Eds.), Research in organizational behavior: An annual series of analytical essays and critical reviews, Vol. 18, pp. 1-74. US: Elsevier Science/JAI Press.
Williams, L. M. (2017). Defining biotypes for depression and anxiety based on large‐scale circuit dysfunction: a theoretical review of the evidence and future directions for clinical translation. Depression and Anxiety34(1), 9-24.
Wu, J., & Lebreton, J. M. (2011). Reconsidering the dispositional basis of counterproductive work behavior: The role of aberrant personality. Personnel Psychology64(3), 593-626.
Zhao, H., Zhang, H., & Xu, Y. (2016). Does the Dark Triad of personality predict corrupt intention? The mediating role of belief in good luck. Frontiers in Psychology7, 608. doi: 10.3389/fp.