summary: People who score high on the “Dark Quad” personality traits, including narcissism, Machiavellianism, sadism, and psychopathy are more likely to initiate cyberbullying behaviors as well as manipulate and exploit potential partners.
Online dating has revolutionized romance, creating more opportunities to meet potential partners than ever before.
However, along with the benefits, there are risks of abuse, harassment and exploitation. In late January this year, the Australian government convened a national roundtable on online dating to explore what can be done to improve safety.
Alarming figures compiled by the Australian Institute of Criminology showed that three in four Australian dating app users who responded to the survey had experienced sexual violence on dating apps in the past five years.
One such mischief is “phishing” — when someone creates, or steals, an identity with the intent of deceiving and exploiting others.
In a study that Cassandra Lauder and I conducted at Federal University, we wanted to find out what psychological traits are common among people who engage in behaviors associated with hunting. We surveyed feline committing behaviors in nearly 700 adults.
We found a group of psychological traits associated with trolling – known as the ‘dark quadrant’ of personality. This includes psychopathy, sadism, narcissism, and Machiavellianism.
So what are these traits, and how can you spot a potential romance scam?
What is the cat again?
What distinguishes catfishing from phishing and other online scams is the lengths to which the killer will go to deceive and exploit his targets. Often, this involves having long-term relationships — with some accounts of these relationships lasting more than a decade.
For many of these scams, the goal is often financial exploitation. According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), in 2019 Australians reported just under 4,000 romance scams, which cost Australians more than A$28 million. In 2021, that number was just over $56 million.
However, not all cat scams involve financial exploitation. In some cases, there may appear to be no real reason for victim-survivor exploitation and manipulation—a form researchers have called social activation.
The experience of catfishing can cause significant psychological and financial damage to the surviving victims.
In our study, we recruited a sample of 664 participants (55.8% men, 40.3% women, 3.9% other/missing) via social media. We asked the participants to indicate how often they committed a range of behaviors related to hunting. These included “I organize online scams” and “I provide inaccurate personal information online to attract friends or romantic partners”.
We also assessed the participants on a set of personality traits commonly associated with antisocial behaviour, known as the ‘dark quadrant’ of personality.
We found that people who perpetrated cat behaviors had higher psychopathy, higher sadism, and higher narcissism. Sadism in particular was a very strong predictor of feline behavior.
We also found that men were more likely than women to catch catfish.
It should be noted that in this research, the participants filled out the questionnaire themselves, which means that the data is what we call “self-reported” in the research. As we asked people if they were performing socially undesirable behaviors such as personal manipulation, exploitation, and deception, the main issue is that people may not be completely honest when responding to a survey. This can lead to bias in the data.
We addressed this by measuring participants’ “social desirability”—the degree to which a person conceals their true self in order to appear good to others. We used this measure in all of our findings to reduce some of this potential bias.
Previous research has found that those who use drugs report motivations such as loneliness, dissatisfaction with physical appearance, identity exploration, and escapism.
Find out why people might catfish it possible to catch surviving victims. Although the aforementioned motives may certainly still play a role, our findings add to the story.
6 signs of a possible romance scam
We found that people who engage in feline behavior are more likely to be callous, selfish, lack empathy, and most importantly, enjoy hurting others. This indicates that not all catfish hunters are necessarily indifferent to the damage they can cause. In fact for some, harm may be the goal.
There are other practical ways to identify a potential romance scam online. I’ve been researching antisocial behavior online for nearly a decade. Drawing on psychiatry podcasts, and in collaboration with the Laboratory of Cyber Psychology and Interpersonal Health Operations at Federal University, here are six signs of a potential hunting scenario:
- They call you first. It is very unusual for the victim-survivor to have made the initial contact. Usually, the pitcher will make first contact.
- They are too good to be true. Cool profile? check. beautiful? check. Maybe even educated and rich? check. A bomber wants to look good and seduce you.
- Love bombing. Prepare yourself for the base you are about to lay. The slanderer will shower you with compliments and protests about love. It’s hard not to be flattered by this amount of attention. You may also find terms of endearment common – which saves the shooter having to remember all those different names.
- They never called. Phone calls, video calls, and meetings are always getting in the way.
- Strange communication. There may be typos, late or ambiguous responses. Something about this connection seems a bit off.
- They ask for money. Money is not always the target of the thrower. But any of the above signs combined with a demand for money should be a red flag. Don’t make any decisions before talking to someone – a trusted friend or family member. Often, people on the outside have a clearer view of the situation than those involved.
About this research psychology news
author: Evita March
communication: Evita March – The Conversation
picture: The image is in the public domain
Original search: open access.
“Catfishing: Exploring Gender and Dark Tetrad of Personality as Predictors of Catfishing Commitment” by Ivita March et al. computer in human behavior
Catching catfish: An exploration of gender and dark tetrad of personality as predictors of catfishing commission
Fishing, which is the act of deceiving and exploiting another person online, can have a significant negative impact on a target. To date, limited research has explored individual differences in the commission of catfishing.
We address this paucity by adopting a theoretical framework of evolutionary psychology (the “cheater strategy hypothesis”) and exploring the usefulness of sex and the “Dark Tetrad” personality traits of psychopathology, sadism, Machiavellianism, and narcissism for predicting hunting commission.
A sample of 664 participants (55.8% men, 40.3% women) with a mean age of 28.84 years (SD = 9.60) via social media and completed an anonymous online questionnaire that included measures of personality and hunting behaviour. Combined, the variants explained 62.6% of the variance in catfishing commission.
The results partially supported the hypotheses, with psychopathy, sadism, and narcissism emerging only as positive predictors of hunting-commitment.
The results of the current study suggest that developmental psychology may be a useful theoretical framework when exploring antisocial behaviors online.
Moreover, these findings provide important information regarding the psychological profile of “catfish” and may have important practical implications by informing about the prevention and management of this online behavior.