A latent core of dark traits explains individual differences in peacekeepers’ unethical attitudes and conduct

Magnus Lindén, Fredrik Björklund, Martin Bäckström, Deanna Messervey, David Whetham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The influence of military members’ malevolent personality traits on their ethical attitudes and behaviors has been the subject of research for decades. We investigated the relationship between malevolent individual difference factors (Machiavellianism, narcissism, psychopathy, the dominance facet of social dominance orientation, and right-wing authoritarianism) and aspects of military ethics before and during a peacekeeping mission to Mali. Based on pre-service responses from 175 Swedish soldiers, a factor analysis revealed a latent variable to which all individual difference factors contributed. This latent “core of darkness” was related to being more positive toward unethical behaviors both in a warzone and in the Swedish military organization. Extending these findings using a sub-sample of the soldiers (n = 63), we also found that the latent darkness variable prospectively predicted a higher frequency of self-reported insulting and cursing of non-combatants while in Mali. Our results suggest that malevolent individual difference factors have a common core and that moral transgressions during peacekeeping can be predicted and perhaps minimized by identifying soldiers who score high on this common core. However, more research is needed to understand the unique relations of some malevolent factors and different types of morally questionable warzone behavior.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)499-509
JournalMilitary Psychology
Volume31
Issue number6
Early online date2019 Oct 31
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Social Psychology

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