Behind the mask of manipulation. Unique features underlying manipulation among the Dark Triad
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Theoretically speaking, being unpredictable in social interactions, and thus, applying multiple tactics of manipulation might be adaptive. Thus, in other words, a protean behavior might be advantageous for cheaters in order to avoid detection. In this sense, behavioral similarities emerge despite different evolutionary adaptations. Therefore, it is possible that manipulation styles of the traits of the Dark Triad (DT; Machiavellianism, subclinical narcissism, and subclinical psychopathy) reflect to the unique emotional, cognitive, and behavioral characteristics of each trait. More specifically, different theoretical implications emerged on whether or not manipulation requires advanced abilities in predicting another person’s emotional and mental states. Prior research on mindreading or, in other words, theory of mind (ToM) applying traditional methods has found mixed evidence for the relationship between mindreading and the DT traits. In particular, research on the relationship between mindreading and manipulation has not found a positive link when applying methods for the assessment of “general” or prosocial ToM abilities. This inconsistency between theory and empirical studies, however, created a need for the establishment of a more specific measure of ToM in conflict situations. For these reasons we developed a novel measure of mindreading. This measure was developed for mental state assessment in manipulation and conflict-related scenarios by engaging different perspectives in the service of mindreading. Further, a series of studies have been conducted to investigate social cognition and, more specifically, emotional intelligence, empathy, and mental state attribution along with impulsivity among dark personality traits. In this investigation, a special focus was put on methodological considerations and the long-term versus short-term orientation in manipulation. Taken together, findings of these studies have implications for diverse manipulation styles inside the DT personality. Thus, in evolutionary terms, it is possible that diverse manipulation styles derive from different roots creating more than a single cheater strategy. As a consequence, each DT member exploit their environment with unique tactics of social influence which may stem from their unique features such as emotional capacities, cognitive abilities, and self-control. Thus, evidence supports the theory that manipulative behavior common to the DT may originate in different personality features.