Mind-reading and manipulation - Is Machiavellianism related to theory of mind?

M. Lyons, T. Caldwell, S. Shultz

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Theory of Mind (ToM), the capacity to read mental states of other people, is a tool that allows individuals to function efficiently during social interactions. Although ToM has been studied extensively in clinical populations, few studies have focused on ToM capacity in the general population. In this study, the relationship between ToM and the personality construct Machiavellianism are investigated. In evolutionary terms, a link between exploitative strategy and ToM would be expected - in order to be a successful manipulator, an individual should have a good understanding of the emotions and intentions of others. We found that Machiavellianism was, in fact, negatively correlated with both hot and cold measures of Theory of Mind. We suggest that high-Machs have deficits in empathizing ability, which allows them to exploit others. The findings also question the idea of Machiavellian Intelligence as a driving force behind evolution of social intelligence in humans.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)261-274
    Number of pages13
    JournalJournal of Evolutionary Psychology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2010


    • evolution
    • hot and cold cognition
    • Machiavellianism
    • theory of mind


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