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You’re dead to me! The evolutionary psychology of social estrangements and social transgressions

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In our species, social connections with a broad array of individuals are foundational to success. On the flip side, we have evolved so as to not be exploited by others. This dynamic is the focus of the studies described here. Study 1 examined the psychology of social estrangements. The main prediction was that the number of estrangements one has would be predictive of various adverse psychological outcomes. Using a sample of 315 young adults, we found evidence for this prediction: A high number of estrangements corresponded to high scores on depressive tendencies and anxious attachment as well as low scores on social support. In Study 2, using a between-participants methodology, we manipulated transgression intensity, target of the transgression, and whether an apology was included. 288 young adults participated. Each participant was presented with a set of stimuli representing one level of each of the three independent variables and then provided ratings for several dependent variables, such as how angry and betrayed he or she would feel in the situation. Transgression intensity and target of the transgression had consistent significant effects on the dependent variables in the predicted directions. Presence of an apology generally had little effect. In both Studies 1 and 2, high scores on the Dark Triad predicted the outcomes as well: In Study 1, a high number of estrangements corresponded to high scores on the Dark Triad. In Study 2, high scores on the Dark Triad corresponded to strong negative responses to social transgressions. Implications for the evolutionary psychology of interpersonal relationships are discussed.
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Youre dead to me! The evolutionary psychology of social
estrangements and social transgressions
Glenn Geher
1
&Vania Rolon
1
&Richard Holler
1
&Amanda Baroni
1
&Morgan Gleason
1
&Eden Nitza
2
&Gratia Sullivan
2
&
Graham Thomson
1
&Jacqueline M. Di Santo
1
#Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019
Abstract
In our species, social connections with a broad array of individuals are foundational to success. On the flip side, we have evolved
so as to not be exploited by others. This dynamic is the focus of the studies described here. Study 1 examined the psychology of
social estrangements. The main prediction was that the number of estrangements one has would be predictive of various adverse
psychological outcomes. Using a sample of 315 young adults, we found evidence for this prediction: A high number of
estrangements corresponded to high scores on depressive tendencies and anxious attachment as well as low scores on social
support. In Study 2, using a between-participants methodology, we manipulated transgression intensity, target of the transgres-
sion, and whether an apology was included. 288 young adults participated. Each participant was presented with a set of stimuli
representing one level of each of the three independent variables and then provided ratings for several dependent variables, such
as how angry and betrayed he or she would feel in the situation. Transgression intensity and target of the transgression had
consistent significant effects on the dependent variables in the predicted directions. Presence of an apology generally had little
effect. In both Studies 1 and 2, high scores on the Dark Triad predicted the outcomes as well: In Study 1, a high number of
estrangements corresponded to high scores on the Dark Triad. In Study 2, high scores on the Dark Triad corresponded to strong
negative responses to social transgressions. Implications for the evolutionary psychology of interpersonal relationships are
discussed.
Keywords Reciprocal altruism .Estrangement .Social transgression .Apology .Forgiveness .Positive evolutionary psychology
In so many ways, humans are the communal ape, forming
important social bonds within and across lines of kinship
(see Wilson 2007). In fact, our ability to coordinate with un-
related conspecifics seems to be a foundational feature of our
species, distinguishing our Homo sapien ancestors in impor-
tant ways from other similar species, such as Homo
Neanderthalis, who never seemed to evolve the capacity to
work in coordinated ways across lines of kin (see Bingham
and Souza 2009; Geher et al. 2017).
But being a highly social kind of species in which individ-
uals come to depend on the good will of unrelated individuals
can be a dicey business. Exploiting ones good will for ones
own betterment is a strategy that emerges in such a context
(see Jonason et al. 2013). In a classic instance of antagonistic
co-evolution, humans, then, evolved not only the ability to
coordinate and build social bonds with unrelated conspecifics,
but, along the way, we evolved a suite of cheater-detection
adaptations so as to help humans avoid being exploited by
others in the process (see Ermer et al. 2007).
Under ancestral conditions, and for the lions share of hu-
man evolutionary history, people lived in small and stable
groups, capped at approximately 150 individuals (see
Dunbar 1992). Further, an individual was regularly
surrounded by the same others, including a high proportion
of kin as well as a high proportion of non-kin that had strong
familial ties with that individual. Under the conditions that
humans evolved in, our ancestors did not have the luxury of
beingabletoswapsocialgroupsormovetoanewcity.
Given the importance of social connections in our species,
cutting ties with others in such small-scale contexts would
have had obvious deleterious social outcomes. It is for this
reason that research into the social psychology of ostracism
*Glenn Geher
geherg@newpaltz.edu
1
State University of New York at New Paltz, 1 Hawk Dr, New
Paltz, NY 12561, USA
2
Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA
Current Psychology
https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-019-00381-z
finds such social alienation to be extremely emotionally taxing
(see Wesselmann et al. 2012).
In the current research, we are interested in the evolutionary
psychology of social estrangements, defined as existing when
two individuals, for any number of reasons, decide that the other
is dead to them”—planning to not speak to or interact with that
person ever again. From the perspective of not being exploited
by another, estranging another individual from ones life could
have clear benefits. If someone has proven to have betrayed you
or transgressed against you so strongly so as to not be trusted as a
friend, cutting that person off might be socially advantageous.
On the other hand, in a small-scale society, cutting some-
one off completely is risky business. If you cut off too many
others in a small-scale society, given the many connections
that others have, you might quickly find yourself ostracized or
on the outs from the group. In a species such as ours, being on
the outs with a large proportion of others in ones group could
have fatal consequencesparticularly under ancestral condi-
tions. From the evolutionary perspective, we have strong rea-
son to believe that the human mind today is largely a product
that was sculpted to match ancestral, as opposed to modern,
conditions (see Geher 2014).
From this vantage point, social alienation under modern
conditions may well have adverse emotional effects, a point
that is consistent with the broader literature on the connection
between emotional states and social functioning. In a recent
study on this topic, Guitar et al. (2018) presented participants
with an opportunity to acquire friendsin a virtual social
environment. The researchers manipulated the situation so
that some participants were able to easily make friends where-
as others were generally unable to make friends. Those in the
no friendscondition reported experience a host of negative
affective states as a result. Social alienation of all varieties can
wreak havoc onour social and emotional worlds. The research
presented here focuses on a facet of this tendency by exploring
various specific psychological outcomes associated with var-
iability in social estrangements.
Specifically, this paper presents two studies that explore the
social psychology that surrounds this bifurcate context for
human social interactions. This context, with its own unique
dynamic that permeates human social relationships, is defined
by the concurrent existence of (a) mechanisms designed to
keep an individual connected with other humans and (b) the
possibility that one might be exploited by said others individ-
uals against his or her own interests.
Given these opposing pressures, it makes sense that human
evolved psychology would include a combination of (a) pro-
cesses that help facilitate strong connections among others and
(b) processes that make people skeptical of othersintentions
toward them so as to avoid being exploited. Indeed, various
such processes have been found in the psychological literature.
For instance, speaking to the importance of making social con-
nections, there is an extensive body of literature focusing on the
need for adults to form close intimate relationships as part of
normal social development (see Schmitt et al. 2004;Brassard
et al. 2012). Across the lifespan, humans develop specific at-
tachment styles that shape how they interact with intimate
others in their social worlds. People with a history of stressful
and undesirable experiential outcomes across development tend
to demonstrate various forms of insecure attachment styles
which, in turn, are strongly predictive of various negative affec-
tive states (see Mikulincer et al. 2003)aswellasdysfunctional
social relationships (see DiTommaso et al. 2003).
Similarly, on the point of a psychology that evolved to protect
oneself from being exploited, there are large literatures on such
topics as detecting cheaters in social relationships (see Cosmides
and Tooby 1992) and the tendency to punish those who take
more than their fair share via altruistic punishment (see Wilson
2015). Generally, this literature underscores the fact that our so-
cial minds are highly sensitive to exploitation by others and we
tend to have a suite of behavioral adaptations, such as the ability
to effectively reason when someone has violated a social con-
tract. In short, the human mind evolved partly to help us avoid
being exploited or abused by others in our social worlds.
Current Studies
Two studies designed to shed light on the evolutionary psy-
chology of estranged social relationships are presented here.
Study 1 focuses on the psychology of social estrangements,
which are defined by people cutting off others fully from their
social worlds. From the evolutionary perspective provided
here, an estrangement provides one solution to the possibility
of being exploited and treated adversely by another. Study 2
uses an experimental methodology to examine factors that
predict responses to social transgressions. Transgressions
against oneself by someone in onessocialsphererepresent
precisely the kinds of acts that signal that onesownwelfareis
being devalued within a relational context (see Sell 2011).
Study 1
Study 1 examined the correlates associated with the number of
estrangements that one has in his or her life. We predicted that
the number of estrangements one has in his orher social world
would be predictive of a broad suite of adverse psychological
and social outcomes. Further, we were interested in the degree
to which the number of estrangements correlated with scores
on the Big Five personality traits as well as the Dark Triad. We
were particularly interested in the possibility that people who
score high on the Dark Triad (including Machiavellianism,
narcissism, and psychopathy) would have a relatively high
number of estrangements, suggesting that cutting others off
might be part of a dark approach to social interactions.
Curr Psychol
Specifically, we sought to test if the number of estrange-
ments one has would be associated with relatively high scores
on measures of (a) depressive tendencies, (b) anxious attach-
ment, (c) bipolar tendencies, (d) satisfaction with life, (e) each
facet of the Dark Triad, and (f) sociosexuality. We also pre-
dicted that a high number of estrangements would correspond
to a fast life history strategy, an unrestricted sociosexual style,
and low scores on measures of social support.
Method
Participants
An online survey was created and administered via Qualtrics.
Of the 444 participants who started this survey, 315 completed
the survey in its entirety (N
min
=292, N
max
= 315). The only
perquisites for participating in the survey were being at least
18 years of age and fluent in English. The relatively high
attrition rate likely pertained to both the fact that the survey
was relatively long and the fact that many of the questions
may have been somewhat anxiety-producing (such as the
questions focusing on specific estrangements in the partici-
pantssocial worlds).
Measures and Procedure
The research team distributed the Qualtrics survey link in a
variety of online venues (e.g. Facebook). Thus, all participants
took the survey at a time and location of their own conve-
nience. Outside of general demographics (gender, age, ethnic-
ity, sexual orientation, education level, and parentsmarital
status), a total of 10 indices comprised this survey:
Estrangement History
Participants were presented with a definition of an estrange-
ment as existing when someone is totally cut offfrom your-
self and that there are no plans to rekindle the relationship. In
this assessment, participants reported three pieces of informa-
tion for each estrangement that they were involved in. 1) First
initial of the estranged person (e.g. John Smith: J);2)the
persons relationship to the participant prior to the
estrangement (a. family member,b.friend,c.romantic
partner,d.co-worker,ore.other: please specify); and 3) the
person who played the primary role in creating the
estrangement (a. mostly me,b.mostly the other person,orc.
a combination of the both of us). After participants described a
particular estranged relationship, they were prompted to de-
scribe another such relationship, followed by another. They
were asked to complete the prior-stated information for each
such estrangement that they could think of in their own par-
ticular social worlds. Importantly, given the conception of
estrangement that drove this research, we needed to create a
measure for this research. We believe that the measure has
clear face validity and, as demonstrated in the subsequent
Results section, it is clear that some level of convergent valid-
ity (based on significant correlations with relevant variables in
the predicted direction) was demonstrated as well.
Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS)
This 5-item scale was rated on a 1 (Strongly Disagree)to7
(Strongly Agree) Likert scale and measured participantssub-
jective well-being (Diener et al. 1985).
The Dirty Dozen (Dark Triad)
Thisinventoryincluded12itemsthatwereratedona1
(Strongly Disagree)to7(Strongly Agree)Likertscale.The
scale primarily measured narcissism,psychopathy,and
Machiavellianism (Jonason and Webster 2010).
The Big Five Personality Traits
This 10-item scale measured the Big Five personality traits
(openness,conscientiousness,extraversion,agreeableness,
and neuroticism)ona1(Strongly Disagree)to7(Strongly
Agree)Likert scale (Gosling et al. 2003).
Revised Socio-Sexual Orientation (SOI-R)
This 9-item scale assessed participantssexual behavior (9-
point scale), attitude (9-point scale), and desire (5-point
scale) (Penke and Asendorpf 2008).
Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support
This 12-item scale assessed perceived social support from
participantsfamily,friends,andsignificant others on a 1
(Very Strongly Disagree)to7(Very Strongly Agree) Likert
scale (Zimet et al. 1988).
Mini-K (Life History Strategy)
This scale included 20 items that were rated on a 3(Strongly
Disagree)to3(Strongly Agree) Likert scale. The scale
assessed a variety of life-history parameters that included sex-
ual, reproductive, parental, familial, and social behaviors
(Figueredo et al. 2006).
Revised Bipolar Spectrum Diagnostic Scale (BSDS-R)
This inventory included 20 items that assessed participants
bipolar tendencies and behaviors. Participants could only in-
dicate Yes or No to each of the 20 items (Ghaemi et al. 2005).
Curr Psychol
Adult Attachment Scale (AAS)
This 18-item inventory assessed participantsattachment
styles (avoidant,anxious,andsecure) and was rated on a 1
(Strongly Disagree)to5(Strongly Agree) Likert scale (Collins
and Read 1990).
Self-Rating Depression Scale (SDS)
This scale included 20 items that measured participantsde-
pressive tendencies and behaviors on a 1 (A little of the time)
to 4 (Most of the time) Likert scale (Zung 1965).
Results
The primary hypotheses predicted that a relatively high
number of estrangements would correspond to various
adverse dispositional, emotional, and social outcomes.
First, we created an estrangement index, which was
simply the total number of direct estrangements that an
individual reported having in his or her life. The mean
across all participants was 3.86 (SD = 3.82). No signifi-
cant sex difference was found (M
females
= 3.69, SD =
3.47; M
males
=4.05, SD =4.19).
Zero-Order Correlations between Number
of Estrangements and Criterion Variables
Number of estrangements was correlated with 22 criterion
variables. Of these correlations, nine were significant.
Each of these nine correlations was in the direction that
was predicted in our hypotheses. For instance, number of
estrangements was positively correlated with psychopa-
thy, r(311) = .20, p~ = 0. As an example of a relationship
with a basic personality trait, note that number of es-
trangements was negatively correlated with the k-factor
r(292) = .15, p= .01, meaning that people with a rela-
tively high number of estrangements tended to have rela-
tively fast life history strategies. As an example of an
emotion-based index, note that number of estrangements
was positively correlated with depressive tendencies,
r(307) = .15, p= .01. The full set of zero-order correla-
tions is found in Table 1.
Comparing Extreme Estrangers with the General
Sample
Based on our assessment of the histogram for the estrange-
ment variable, it was striking how positively skewed this var-
iable is. The distribution seems normally distributed up until
the value of about 10 estrangements.From that point, there are
28 who have 10 or more estrangements.
Basedonthepatternfoundinthefrequencydistribu-
tion for this variable, it became clear that a grouping var-
iable based on the cutoff of a value of 10 made good
sense. While 10 does not represent a median or quartile
value, it does have an important statistical feature in the
data for this variable. Specifically, the frequencies for the
values preceding 10 (values of 8 and 9) correspond to
frequencies of 2 and 1, respectively. Further, the values
immediately following 10 (values of 11 and 12) corre-
spond to frequencies of 3 and 2, respectively. But the
frequency for the value of 10 itself is 9 (more than the
sum of the values for 8, 9, 11, and 12 combined). Based
on the relatively modal statistical nature of the value of 10
for this particular variable, we decided that this point in
the range of values represents a critical psychometric di-
viding point.
We decided to create a grouping variable comparing ex-
treme estrangers (10+) with everyone else in the sample for
each of the criterion variables.
These analyses paralleled the analyses for the zero-order
correlations in many ways. However, with the t-tests, the ef-
fects were more consistently in line with the hypotheses and
more variables showed significant effects. Table 2shows the
results of these t-tests.
Discussion
Study 1 explored the empirical parameters surrounding
social estrangements. The zero-order correlations in
Study 1 showed mild but consistent evidence of this basic
prediction: Number of estrangements corresponded to
high scores on such measures as depressive tendencies
and anxious attachment. Given the nature of the distribu-
tion of scores on the estrangement index, we divided peo-
ple into two groups representing extreme estrangers ver-
sus others. Extreme estrangers demonstrated a psycholog-
icalprofilemarkedbyemotional distress (e.g., depressive
tendencies), social problems (e.g., low perceived social
support by family members), and a dark approach to
interacting with others (high scores on each facet of the
Dark Triad). Study 1 provides a strong and multi-faceted
examination of the social psychology of estrangements.
Results revealed that a high number of estrangements is
associated with a broad suite of adverse social, disposi-
tional, and emotional outcomes.
Study 2
Study 1 was correlational in nature, examining the disposi-
tional, emotional, and social correlates associated with the
number of social estrangements that one has in his or her life.
Curr Psychol
Study 2 was designed as an experimental approach to better
understand specific factors that shape psychological responses
associated with rifts within social communities. Study 2 fo-
cused particularly on the nature of social transgressions. We
explored how people respond to social transgressions as a
function of three evolutionarily relevant factors that follow
from past research into the evolutionary psychology of inter-
personal interactions (see McCullough et al. 2014; Trivers
1985).
The three factors included in this study were (a) transgres-
sion intensity (i.e., how big a particular transgression was) (b)
target of the transgression (i.e., if the transgression was targeted
at an individual or at his or her property), and (c) whether an
apology was presented subsequent to the transgression.
Given that estrangements exert powerful costs to an in-
dividual, it seems clear that humans would be motivated to
try their best to stay connected with others in their social
circles. However, when one is the target of a social trans-
gression, he or she is faced with a bind, because staying
connected to someone who exploits you has clear deleteri-
ous effects.
Study 2 explored the differential effects of transgres-
sion intensity, target of a transgression, and presence of an
apology on various emotional outcomes (such as anger
and perceptions of betrayal). We also measured the Dark
Triad to see if, as in Study 1, the facets of the Dark Triad
predicted a relatively dark approach to responding
to regarding social transgressions. We predicted main ef-
fects for each of the independent variables, suggesting
that a larger transgression, aimed at the target, without
an apology would lead to the most negative responses.
Further, given the ubiquitous nature of the Big Five per-
sonality traits in predicting behaviors, we included a mea-
sureofthesetraitsaswell.
Regarding these dispositional constructs, we generally pre-
dicted that each facet of the Dark Triad would be positively
related to negative transgression reactions (such as feeling
betrayed and angered). Further, we predicted the neuroticism
subscale of the Big Five to also positively correlate with adverse
reactions to transgressions.
Method
Participants
A total of 288 people participated in this study. Of those
reporting gender, 173 reported female and 54 reported
Table 1 Zero-order correlations
among number of estrangements
with the criterion variables
Cronbachsalpha NCorrelation with Number
of Estrangements
Subjective Well-Being Subjective Well-Being 0.86 315 .08
Dark Triad Machiavellianism 0.80 312 .15
*
Psychopathy 0.72 311 .20
**
Narcissism 0.84 311 .13
*
Big Five Extraversion 0.85 311 .01
Agreeableness 0.38 311 .03
Conscientiousness 0.58 311 .06
Emotional Stability 0.64 311 .14
*
Openness 0.51 311 .04
Sociosexual Orientation Behavior 0.83 313 .16
**
Attitude 0.83 312 .08
Desire 0.85 311 .10
Tot a l 0. 86 31 3 .14
*
Perceived Social Support Significant Other 0.94 311 .02
Family 0.92 311 .10
Friends 0.93 311 .08
Tot a l 0. 89 311 .09
Attachment Style Avoidant 0.73 307 .07
Anxious 0.68 307 .15
**
Secure 0.65 307 .07
Life History Strategy K-Factor
1
0.75 292 .15
*
Depression Depressive Tendencies 0.83 307 .15
*
1
High K-factor scores correspond to a slower life history theory;
*
p<.05;
**
p<.01
Curr Psychol
male. These participants were mostly young adults, with
72.5% reporting being between the ages of 1824.
Participants were gathered using a range of methods, in-
cluding an email sent to the SUNY New Paltz all student
email list, postings in the Evolutionary Lab of SUNY
New Paltz and other relevant Facebook groups along with
individual connections. All participants were volunteers.
Qualtrics was the survey software used. Please note that
all original de-identified data from this study are archived
per guidelines of SUNY New Paltzs Human Research
Ethics Board.
Table 2 Comparing extreme
estrangers with general sample Va r i a b l e M ( S D ) t ( d f) p Co h e n sd
Subjective Well-Being General: 21.87 (6.32)
Extreme: 20.57 (6.90)
1.03 (313) .30 .20
Machiavellianism General: 11.50 (4.91)
Extreme: 15.14 (5.41)
3.71 (310) .00** .71
Psychopathy General: 8.33 (4.31)
Extreme: 10.96 (5.29)
3.02 (309) .00** .55
Narcissism General: 14.52 (5.45)
Extreme: 16.61 (5.44)
1.94 (309) .05 .38
Extraversion General: 3.98 (1.67)
Extreme: 3.79 (1.70)
.59 (309) .56 .11
Agreeableness General: 5.20 (1.08)
Extreme: 5.04 (1.22)
.76 (309) .45 .14
Conscientiousness General: 5.24 (1.25)
Extreme: 5.21 (1.47)
.12 (309) .91 .02
Emotional Stability General: 3.99 (1.34)
Extreme: 3.48 (1.41)
1.90 (309) .06 .37
Openness General: 5.38 (1.08)
Extreme: 5.39 (1.17)
.05 (309) .96 .01
SOIR Behavior Facet General: 1.62 (1.59)
Extreme: 2.46 (1.89)
2.63 (311) .01 .48
SOIR Attitude Facet General: 5.18 (2.25)
Extreme: 5.83 (2.09)
1.49 (310) .14 .30
SOIR Desire Facet General: 2.73 (1.22)
Extreme: 3.20 (1.21)
1.93 (309) .06 .39
SOIR Total General: 3.17 (1.38)
Extreme: 3.85 (1.46)
2.46 (311) .01* .48
Perceived Social Support Significant Other General: 5.66 (1.45)
Extreme: 5.24 (1.64)
1.43 (309) .16 .27
Perceived Social Support Family General: 5.21 (1.57)
Extreme: 4.60 (1.54)
1.96 (309) .05 .39
Perceived Social Support Friends General: 5.65 (1.20)
Extreme: 5.12 (1.48)
2.20 (309) .03* .40
Perceived Social Support Total General: 5.51 (1.05)
Extreme: 4.99 (1.04)
2.50 (309) .01* .50
Avoidant Attachment General: 2.87 (.78)
Extreme: 3.17 (.72)
1.98 (305) .05 .40
Anxious Attachment General: 2.74 (.73)
Extreme: 3.09 (.71)
2.40 (305) .02* .49
Secure Attachment General: 3.24 (.68)
Extreme: 3.04 (.83)
1.45 (305) .15 .26
Depressive Tendencies General: 2.05 (.44)
Extreme: 2.24 (.47)
2.17 (305) .03* .41
Mini-k General: 19.90 (13.14)
Extreme: 12.44 (13.63)
2.71 (290) .01* .56
DT_TOTAL General: 34.14 (11.45)
Extreme: 42.71 (11.64)
3.77 (311) ~.00** .74
*p< .05; **p<.01
Curr Psychol
Design and Procedure
From each of three dichotomous independent variables, we
created vignettes of a 2 × 2 × 2 between-groups design. The
first independent variable was the presence or absence of an
apology. The second independent variable was whether the
insult was directed at person or at an object. The third inde-
pendent variable was whether the insult was major or minor.
This design resulted in eight possible combinations of vari-
ables. These combinations were then used to write two differ-
ent scenarios, one with Laurenand the transgressor and one
with Victoras the transgressor. An attempt was made to
eliminate all confounding variables by avoiding linguistic
choices that would imply other variables such as socioeco-
nomic status. Sixteen vignettes were derived from this design
(See Table 3).
Importantly, these vignettes were developed for this partic-
ular research. We chose to create our own measures given the
specific nature of our hypotheses. In addition to having clear
face validity based on the content of the vignettes (see
Tab le 3), these measures demonstrated predictive validity vis
a vis the predicted effects they had on the dependent measures
used in this study (per the Results section). Each participant
was presented with two scenarios (one with Lauren as the
transgressor and one with Victor as the transgressor) that
contained the same combination of variables.
After reading each vignette, the participants were asked
questions regarding their reactions to the vignettes. These
questions worked to assess the dependent variables, including
forgiveness,anger,betrayal,continuation of friendship,and
revenge. These ratings were done on a 17 Likert scale and
were completed twice, once for the Victor scenario and once
for the Lauren scenario.
Participants were given access to the survey in the form of a
URL. Participants were directed through the survey by in-
structions on each page including the personality measures
(Dirty Dozen and TIPI), the Victor and Lauren vignettes (with
responses to the dependent variables requested), and the de-
mographic questions (age and gender).
Results
Effects of the Independent Variables on Forgiveness
Two three-way ANOVAs were conducted to examine the ef-
fects of transgression intensity, transgression target, and apol-
ogy presence on the degree to which participants would for-
give each of the targets. One was conducted for the Victor
stimuli and the other was conducted for the Lauren stimuli.
Importantly, given the well-documented effects of target gen-
der on social perceptions (see Lobel 1994), we conducted
ANOVAs separately for the Victorand Laurentargets.
Relevant means and standard deviations for the below-
presented analyses are found in Tables 4,5,6and 7.
Victor: Forgiveness The ANOVA revealed a significant effect
for Transgression Intensity (F(1, 277) = 45.42, p~ = .00;
2
= .17). There was also a significant main effect of transgres-
sion target (F(1, 277) = 53.22, p~ = .00;
2
=.19). Therewas
no significant interaction and there was no significant main
effect for apology. Note that for transgression intensity, the
high-intensity transgression corresponded to a lower likeli-
hood of forgiveness. Similarly, a transgression that was per-
sonal (at the observer) also corresponded to a lower likelihood
of forgiveness.
Lauren: Forgiveness The ANOVA for Laurens forgiveness
data were parallel to the findings for Victor. The ANOVA
revealed a significant effect for Transgression Intensity (F(1,
225) = 37.03, p ~ = .00;
2
= .14). There was also a significant
main effect of transgression target (F(1, 225) = 24.04, p
~ = .00;
2
= .08). There was also no significant main effect
for apology.
Unlike in the Victor scenario, there was a significant
Intensity-by-Target interaction (F(1, 225) = 8.77, p~ = .00;
2
= .04). As can be seen in Fig. 1, this significant effect is
accounted for by the fact that there is a considerable drop in
likelihood to forgive Lauren when (a) the transgression is of
high intensity and (b) the insult is cast directly on Laurens
person.
Effects of the Independent Variables on Anger
Victor: Anger The ANOVA revealed a significant effect for
Transgression Intensity (F(1, 277) = 44.19, p~ = .00;
2
= .16). There was also a significant main effect of transgres-
sion target (F(1, 277) = 37.73, p~ = .00;
2
=.14). Therewas
no significant interaction and there was no significant main
effect for apology. Note that for transgression intensity, the
high-intensity transgression corresponded to a higher anger
rating. Similarly, a transgression that was personal (at the ob-
server) also corresponded to a higher anger rating.
Lauren: Anger The ANOVA revealed a significant effect for
Transgression Intensity (F(1, 225) = 45.36, p~ = .00;
2
=.17).
There was also a significant main effect of transgression target
(F(1, 225) = 16.67, p~ = .00;
2
= .07). There was no signifi-
cant interaction and there was no significant main effect for
apology.
Effects of the Independent Variables on Staying
Friends
Victor: Friends The ANOVA revealed a significant effect
for Transgression Intensity (F(1, 226) = 73.73, p~=.00;
Curr Psychol
2
= .25). There was also a significant main effect of trans-
gression target (F(1, 226) = 97.88, p~=.00;
2
=.30). The
apology variable had only a marginal effect (F(1, 226) =
3.72, p= .06;
2
= .02). Further, there was a significant
Intensity-by-Target interaction (F(1, 226) = 49.56, p
~=.00;
2
= .18). Consistent with all the significant inter-
actions found for this study. This interaction is accounted
for by the double-whammy effect; participants were par-
ticularlylesslikelytowanttostayfriendswithVictorif
they were in the high-intensity and the personal-
transgression condition.
Lauren Friends The ANOVA revealed a significant effect for
Transgression Intensity (F(1, 225) = 22.61, p~ = .00;
2
=.09).
Table 3 The eight conditions of the Victor and Lauren scenarios
Condition Victor Lauren
Condition 1- No
apology
Object Minor
Your friend Victor and you were talking at a party that you were
hosting. The doorbell rang and you excused yourself briefly.
Just as you came back into the room, you overheard Victor say
that your rug doesnt match your color scheme.
You immediately catch Victors eye at that moment. Victor then
says to you: No offense, but itstrue.
You walk into a restaurant to meet up with some friends for lunch.
You overhear your friend Lauren, who is facing away from you
when you enter, say that she doesntreallylikeyourphone
case.
You immediately catch Laurens eye at that moment. Lauren then
says to you: No offense, but itstrue.
Condition 2-
Apology
Object Minor
Your friend Victor and you were talking at a party that you were
hosting. The doorbell rang and you excused yourself briefly.
Just as you came back into the room, you overheard Victor say
that your rug doesnt match your color scheme.
You immediately catch Victors eye at that moment. Victor then
says to you: Im sorry, I didnt mean it - I was out of line.
You walk into a restaurant to meet up with some friends for lunch.
You overhear your friend Lauren, who is facing away from you
when you enter, say that she doesntreallylikeyourphone
case.
You immediately catch Laurens eye at that moment. Lauren then
says to you: Imsorry,Ididntmeanit-Iwasoutofline.
Condition 3- No
Apology
Person Minor
Your friend Victor and you were talking at a party that you were
hosting. The doorbell rang and you excused yourself briefly.
Just as you came back into the room, you overheard Victor say
that you are always late to your own party.
You immediately catch Victors eye at that moment. Victor then
says to you: No offense, but itstrue.
You walk into a restaurant to meet up with some friends for lunch.
You overhear your friend Lauren, who is facing away from you
when you enter, say that she cant believe that you actually
like country music.
You immediately catch Laurens eye at that moment. Lauren then
says to you: No offense, but itstrue.
Condition
4-Apology
Person Minor
Your friend Victor and you were talking at a party that you were
hosting. The doorbell rang and you excused yourself briefly.
Just as you came back into the room, you overheard Victor say
that you are always late to your own party.
You immediately catch Victors eye at that moment. Victor then
says to you: Im sorry, I didnt mean it - I was out of line.
You walk into a restaurant to meet up with some friends for lunch.
You overhear your friend Lauren, who is facing away from you
when you enter, say that she cant believe that you actually
like country music.
You immediately catch Laurens eye at that moment. Lauren then
says to you: Imsorry,Ididntmeanit-Iwasoutofline.
Condition 5-No
Apology
Object Major
Your friend Victor and you were talking at a party that you were
hosting. The doorbell rang and you excused yourself briefly.
Just as you came back into the room, you overheard Victor say
that your rug is trash.
You immediately catch Victors eye at that moment. Victor then
says to you: No offense, but itstrue.
You walk into a restaurant to meet up with some friends for lunch.
You overhear your friend Lauren, who is facing away from you
when you enter, say that your phone case is ridiculous.
You immediately catch Laurens eye at that moment. Lauren then
says to you: No offense, but itstrue.
Condition 6-
Apology
Object Major
Your friend Victor and you were talking at a party that you were
hosting. The doorbell rang and you excused yourself briefly.
Just as you came back into the room, you overheard Victor say
that your rug is trash.
You immediately catch Victors eye at that moment. Victor then
says to you: Im sorry, I didnt mean it - I was out of line.
You walk into a restaurant to meet up with some friends for lunch.
You overhear your friend Lauren, who is facing away from you
when you enter, say that your phone case is ridiculous.
You immediately catch Laurens eye at that moment. Lauren then
says to you: Imsorry,Ididntmeanit-Iwasoutofline.
Condition 7- No
Apology
Person Major
Your friend Victor and you were talking at a party that you were
hosting. The doorbell rang and you excused yourself briefly.
Just as you came back into the room, you overheard Victor say
that he thinks youre such a joke and he just came for the
food.
You immediately catch Victors eye at that moment. Victor then
says to you: No offense, but itstrue.
You walk into a restaurant to meet up with some friends for lunch.
You overhear your friend Lauren, who is facing away from you
when you enter, say that you just have the worst taste.
You immediately catch Laurens eye at that moment. Lauren then
says to you: No offense, but itstrue.
Condition 8-
Apology
Person Major
Your friend Victor and you were talking at a party that you were
hosting. The doorbell rang and you excused yourself briefly.
Just as you came back into the room, you overheard Victor say
that he thinks youre such a joke and he just came for the
food.
You immediately catch Victors eye at that moment. Victor then
says to you: Im sorry, I didnt mean it - I was out of line.
You walk into a restaurant to meet up with some friends for lunch.
You overhear your friend Lauren, who is facing away from you
when you enter, say that you just have the worst taste.
You immediately catch Laurens eye at that moment. Lauren then
says to you: Imsorry,Ididntmeanit-Iwasoutofline.
Curr Psychol
There was also a significant main effect of transgression target
(F(1, 225) = 40.15, p~ = .00;
2
= .15). As with Victor, the
apology variable had only a marginal effect (F(1, 225) =
2.78, p= .10;
2
= .01). Further, as with Victor, there was a
significant Intensity-by-Target interaction (F(1, 225) = 14.94,
p~ = .00;
2
=.06).
Effects of the Independent Variables on Betrayal
Victor: Betrayal The ANOVA revealed a significant effect
for Transgression Intensity (F(1, 225) = 50.87, p~=.00;
2
= .18). There was also a significant main effect of trans-
gression target (F(1, 225) = 57.92, p~=.00;
2
=.21). The
apology variable had no significant effect. Further, there
was a marginal Intensity-by-Target interaction (F(1,
226) = 3.63, p~=.06;
2
= .02). Consistent with all the
significant interactions found for this study (per Fig. 1),
this interaction is accounted for by the double-whammy
effect; participants were particularly more likely to feel
betrayed if they were in the high-intensity and the
personal-transgression condition.
Lauren: Betrayal The ANOVA revealed a significant effect for
Transgression Intensity (F(1, 225) = 43.15, p~ = .00;
2
=.16).
There was also a significant main effect of transgression target
(F(1, 225) = 27.66, p~ = .00;
2
= .11). The apology variable
had no significant effect. Further, there was a significant
Intensity-by-Target interaction (F(1, 226) = 4.64, p=.03;
2
=.02).
Effects of the Independent Variables on Revenge
Simply, none of the between-subjects factors and none of the
interactions were significant for the Victor or Lauren stimuli.
Correlations between Big Five, Dark Triad,
and Dependent Variables
In addition to the effects of the independent variables examined
in this research, we were interested in effects based on
individual-difference variables. In particular, across levels of
the three independent variables, we were curious to see if the
Big Five personality traits and the three facets of the Dark Triad
Table 4 Means and standard
deviations across conditions for
how much participants would
forgive Victor. Means and
standard deviations for Lauren in
parentheses
Trans-gression Intensity Target Apology Mean Standard Deviation N
Low Property No Apology 5.70 (5.97) 1.18 (.89) 30 (30)
Apology 5.94 (6.16) 1.15 (.78) 31 (31)
Total 5.82 (6.07) 1.16 (.83) 61 (61)
Person No Apology 5.14 (5.76) 1.03 (1.15) 29 (29)
Apology 5.19 (5.96) 1.47 (1.22) 27 (27)
Total 5.16 (5.86) 1.25 (1.18) 56 (56)
Total No Apology 5.42 (5.86) 1.13 (1.02) 59 (59)
Apology 5.59 (6.07) 1.35 (1.01) 58 (58)
Total 5.50 (5.97) 1.24 (1.02) 117 (117)
High Property No Apology 5.35 (5.70) 1.36 (.88) 31 (30)
Apology 5.17 (5.50) 1.44 (1.35) 29 (28)
Total 5.27 (5.60) 1.39 (1.12) 60 (58)
Person No Apology 2.90 (4.41) 1.61 (1.30) 29 (29)
Apology 3.59 (4.62) 1.86 (1.37) 29 (29)
Total 3.24 (4.52) 1.76 (1.33) 58 (58)
Total No Apology 4.17 (5.07) 1.92 (1.27) 60 (59)
Apology 4.38 (5.05) 1.83 (1.42) 58 (57)
Total 4.27 (5.06) 1.87 (1.34) 118 (116)
Total Property No Apology 5.52 (5.83) 1.27 (.89) 61 (60)
Apology 5.57 (5.85) 1.35 (1.13) 60 (59)
Total 5.55 (5.84) 1.30 (1.01) 121 (119)
Person No Apology 4.02 (5.09) 1.75 (1.39) 58 (58)
Apology 4.36 (5.27) 1.85 (1.46) 56 (56)
Total 4.18 (5.18) 1.80 (1.42) 114 (114)
Total No Apology 4.79 (5.47) 1.70 (1.22) 119 (118)
Apology 4.98 (5.57) 1.71 (1.33) 116 (115)
Total 4.89 (5.52) 1.70 (1.27) 235 (233)
Curr Psychol
were significantly related to the dependent variables included in
this research. To address this question, we computed zero-order
correlations between each of the Big Five traits and each of the
facets of the Dark Triad (as well as Dark Triad total scores) with
each of the ten dependent variables (See Table 8).
Of the Big Five personality traits, neuroticism seemed par-
ticularly predictive of reactions to the transgressions, with
significant correlations between neuroticism and the tendency
to be angry at Victor (r(204) = .23, p~ = .00) and feeling
betrayed by Victor (r(204) = .19, p= .01). Further, scoring
as high in agreeableness corresponded to being less likely to
seek revenge on both Victor (r(204) = .35, p~ = .00) and
Lauren (r(199) = .31, p~ = .00).
The Dark Triad was particularly interesting in these analyses.
Each facet of the Dark Triad was significantly (and positively)
relatedtowantingtoenactrevengeonbothVictorandLauren.
Further, several facets of the Dark Triad were significantly related
to other dependent variables in the predicted direction (e.g., nar-
cissism was positively related to the tendency to be angry at both
Victor (r(233) = .24, p~ = .00) and Lauren (r(232) = .21, p
~ = .00)).
Discussion
Several basic stories emerge from the findings of Study 2.
First, transgression intensity and the target ofthe transgression
seem to matter across the board in terms of effects on how
people respond to transgressions against them. Further, all of
the interactions that were significant had a common theme
regarding what we are calling the double-whammy effect:
Participants in the high-intensity and personal-target condi-
tions were particularly offended by the transgression and were
more likely to be angry and less likely to maintain the friend-
ship. The individual-difference variables told an additional
story altogether. Of the Big Five traits, neuroticism seems to
consistently correspond to negative reactions to being
insulted. It is noteworthy that, those high in all facets of the
Dark Triad being most likely to seek revenge against the trans-
gressor. Narcissism was particularly predictive of reactions to
transgressions with those high in narcissism being most likely
to feel betrayed, be angered, and seek revenge against the
transgressor. The trends obtained in this study seemed to cut
across the gender of the transgressorthe effects of the
Table 5 Means and standard
deviations across conditions for
how much participants would be
angry with Victor. Means and
standard deviations across
conditions for how much
participants would be angry with
Lauren are in parentheses
Trans-gression Intensity Target Apology Mean Standard Deviation N
Low Property No Apology 2.73 (1.90) 1.46 (1.06) 30 (30)
Apology 2.84 (2.32) 1.66 (1.19) 31 (31)
Total 2.79 (2.11) 1.55 (1.14) 61 (61)
Person No Apology 4.00 (3.03) 1.73 (1.76) 29 (29)
Apology 3.81 (2.89) 1.69 (1.76) 27 (27)
Total 3.91 (2.96) 1.70 (1.75) 56 (56)
Total No Apology 3.36 (2.46) 1.71 (1.55) 59 (59)
Apology 3.29 (2.59) 1.73 (1.50) 58 (58)
Total 3.32 (2.52) 1.71 (1.52) 117 (117)
High Property No Apology 4.20 (3.50) 1.88 (1.78) 30 (30)
Apology 3.83 (3.54) 1.61 (1.77) 29 (28)
Total 4.02 (3.52) 1.75 (1.76) 59 (58)
Person No Apology 5.59 (4.41) 1.43 (1.70) 29 (29)
Apology 5.38 94.34) 1.37 (1.63) 29 (29)
Total 5.48 (4.38) 1.39 (1.65) 58 (58)
Total No Apology 4.88 (3.95) 1.80 (1.79) 59 (59)
Apology 4.60 (3.95) 1.67 (1.74) 58 (57)
Total 4.74 (3.95) 1.74 (1.75) 117 (116)
Total Property No Apology 3.47 (2.70) 1.83 (1.66) 60 (60)
Apology 3.32 (2.90) 1.69 (1.60) 60 (59)
Total 3.39 (2.80) 1.76 (1.63) 120 (119)
Person No Apology 4.79 (3.72) 1.76 (1.85) 58 (58)
Apology 4.63 (3.64) 1.71 (1.83) 56 (56)
Total 4.71 (3.68) 1.73 (1.84) 114 (114)
Total No Apology 4.12 (3.20) 1.91 (1.82) 118 (118)
Apology 3.95 (3.26) 1.82 (1.75) 116 (115)
Total 4.03 (3.23) 1.86 (1.79) 234 (233)
Curr Psychol
independent and the dispositional variables were remarkably
consistent across both the Victor and Lauren scenarios.
General Discussion
The emerging field of Positive Evolutionary Psychology (see
Geher and Wedberg 2020) seeks to utilize findings from the
field of evolutionary psychology to help elucidate questions
related to the goals of positive psychology. Such questions
pertain to issues of social interactions, including asking how
people might improve their interactions with others as well as
which factors predict relatively functional responses to ad-
verse social interactions.
In combination, the findings from thetwo studies presented
here speak to factors associated with problems that may result
in relationships. Using an evolutionary-based framework,
Study 1 examined psychological effects associated with hav-
ing a high number of estrangements, particularly with an eye
toward how a high number of estrangements may have played
out under ancestral conditions. Study 2 used an experimental
approach to examine the particular effects of factors surround-
ing a transgression or an insult as they relate to emotional and
social reactions (including the decision to remain friends with
someone).
Be Careful about the Cutoff
Study 1 provided consistent evidence about the adverse psy-
chological and social factors associated with a high number of
estrangements. People who score high in the number of es-
trangements are more emotionally volatile and have more
problems in social and emotional functioning generally com-
pared with those who have relatively few estrangements.
Under ancestral conditions, a high number of estrangements
could easily have led to ostracism, which would be devastat-
ing in a small-scale context. Based on the evolutionary per-
spective (see Geher 2014), it makes sense that our psycholog-
ical reactions to estrangements, then, maps not onto modern
post-agrarian conditions but, rather, onto the conditions asso-
ciated with small-scale societies that would have typified the
conditions that our ancestors evolved in. A simple implication
Table 6 Means and standard
deviations across conditions for
how much participants would
stay friends with Victor. Means
and standard deviations across
conditions for how much
participants would stay friends
with Lauren in parentheses
Trans-gression Intensity Target Apology Mean Standard Deviation N
Low Property No Apology 5.67 (5.93) 1.15 (1.08) 30 (30)
Apology 6.23 (6.29) .80 (.75) 31 931)
Total 5.95 (6.11) 1.02 (.95) 61 (61)
Person No Apology 5.59 (5.76) 1.27 (1.15) 29 (29)
Apology 5.44 (5.78) 1.25 (1.34) 27 (27)
Total 5.52 (5.77) 1.25 (1.29) 56 (56)
Total No Apology 5.63 (5.85) 1.20 (1.11) 59 (59)
Apology 5.86 (6.05) 1.10 (1.10) 58 (58)
Total 5.74 (5.95) 1.15 (1.11) 117 (117)
High Property No Apology 5.67 (5.83) 1.09 (.91) 30 (30)
Apology 5.76 (6.14) .91 (.76) 29 (28)
Total 5.71 (5.98) 1.00 (.85) 59 (58)
Person No Apology 2.83 (4.45) 1.36 (1.24) 29 (29)
Apology 3.48 (4.70) 1.30 (1.11) 29 (29)
Total 3.16 (4.57) 1.36 (1.17) 58 (58)
Total No Apology 4.27 (5.15) 1.88 (1.28) 59 (59)
Apology 4.62 (5.40) 1.60 (1.19) 58 (57)
Total 4.44 (5.28) 1.75 (1.24) 117 (116)
Total Property No Apology 5.67 (5.88) 1.11 (.99) 60 (60)
Apology 6.00 (6.22) .88 (.72) 60 (59)
Total 5.83 (6.05) 1.02 (.90) 120 (119)
Person No Apology 4.21 (5.10) 1.91 (1.36) 58 (58)
Apology 4.43 (5.21) 1.61 (1.33) 56 (56)
Total 4.32 (5.16) 1.76 (1.34) 114 (114)
Total No Apology 4.95 (5.50) 1.71 (1.25) 118 (118)
Apology 5.24 (5.73) 1.50 (1.19) 116 (115)
Total 5.09 (5.61) 1.62 (1.22) 234 (233)
Curr Psychol
of the findings from Study 1 suggests that people should be
wary about cutting someone out of his or her lifeour minds
and social worlds are not prepared to effectively deal with a
large number of social estrangements. These findings seem
particularly true with regard to extreme estrangers who have
10 or more people in the world from whom they are estranged.
Hold the Apology
Study 2 sought to explore the factors that lead to such out-
comes as social estrangements in more detail. In terms of
situational factors, this study manipulated the intensity of a
social transgression, the target of such a transgression (at the
Table 7 Means and standard
deviations across conditions for
how much participants would feel
betrayed by Victor. Means and
standard deviations across
conditions for how much
participants would feel betrayed
by Lauren in parentheses
Trans-gression Intensity Target Apology Mean Standard Deviation N
Low Property No Apology 2.53 (1.93) 1.68 (1.14) 30 (30)
Apology 2.55 (2.29) 1.69 91.30) 31 (31)
Total 2.54 (2.11) 1.67 (1.23) 61 (61)
Person No Apology 3.72 (2.93) 1.75 (1.91) 29 (29)
Apology 3.81 (2.56) 1.92 (1.80) 26 (27)
Total 3.76 (2.75) 1.82 (1.85) 55 (56)
Total No Apology 3.12 (2.42) 1.80 (1.63) 59 (59)
Apology 3.12 (2.41) 1.89 (1.55) 57 (58)
Total 3.12 (2.42) 1.84 (1.58) 116 (117)
High Property No Apology 3.53 (2.73) 1.81 (1.48) 30 (30)
Apology 3.79 (3.29) 1.50 (1.63) 29 (28)
Total 3.66 (3.00) 1.66 (1.57) 59 (58)
Person No Apology 5.76 (4.34) 1.33 (1.49) 29 (29)
Apology 5.66 (4.69) 1.34 (1.56) 29 (29)
Total 5.71 (4.52) 1.32 (1.52) 58 (58)
Total No Apology 4.63 (3.53) 1.94 (1.69) 59 (59)
Apology 4.72 (4.00) 1.69 (1.73) 58 (57)
Total 4.68 (3.76) 1.81 (1.72) 117 (116)
Total Property No Apology 3.03 (2.33) 1.80 (1.37) 60 (60)
Apology 3.15 (2.76) 1.71 (1.54) 60 (59)
Total 3.09 (2.55) 1.75 (1.47) 120 (119)
Person No Apology 4.74 (3.64) 1.85 (1.84) 58 (58)
Apology 4.78 (3.66) 1.87 (1.98) 55 (56)
Total 4.76 (3.65) 1.85 (1.90) 113 (114)
Total No Apology 3.87 (2.97) 2.01 (1.74) 118 (118)
Apology 3.93 (3.20) 1.96 (1.82) 115 (115)
Total 3.90 (3.09) 1.98 (1.78) 233 (233)
Fig. 1 Interaction between
transgression intensity and
transgression target on how much
participants would forgive Lauren
Curr Psychol
person or at that persons property), and the presence or ab-
sence of an apology.
Interestingly, and consistent with some past research in this
area (see McCullough et al. 2014), the presence of an apology
was least relevant when it came to reactions to transgressions.
Whether the transgression was major or not matteredas did
the target of the transgression (with transgressions cast at the
individual as particularly offensive). Further, the combination
of a high-intensity transgression that is cast at the individual
seemed to have a double-whammy effect, leading to several
significant interactions suggestive that such a constellation is
especially damning to social relationships.
The Long Reach of the Dark Triad
In both Studies 1 and 2, dispositional variables played a role.
In particular, the Dark Triad, comprised of Machiavellianism,
narcissism, and psychopathy, was strongly related to the num-
ber of estrangements one had in Study 1. It seems that Dark
approach to social relationships puts little value on the feelings
and welfare of others, corresponding to a substantial tendency
to have relationships of all kinds end in the worst of all
wayswith a total cutoff.
In Study 2, the Dark Triad again emerged as playing a
substantial role. Regardless of experimental condition, indi-
viduals high in Dark tendencies responded negatively to trans-
gressions of all kind, feeling particularly angry and
betrayedand being particularly likely to plot revenge. This
connection with revenge is, in fact, consistent with prior re-
search that explored the relationship between revenge and the
Dark Triad (see Brewer et al. 2015).
Limitations and Future Research
There are limitations, of course, to both studies presented
here. In Study 1, we found that the number of estrange-
ments that one has is correlated with various psychologi-
cal variables (such as the Dark Triad and depressive ten-
dencies). This said, given the lack of experimental manip-
ulation in Study 1, we simply do not know the details of
the causal mechanisms at play. It may be that being de-
pressed and having a Dark social approach leads to a high
number of estrangements. Or it may be that a high number
Table 8 Correlations between the big five, the dark triad, and reactions to transgressions
Forgive
(Victor)
Angry
(Victor)
Betrayed
(Victor)
Friends
(Victor)
Revenge
(Victor)
Forgive
(Lauren)
Angry
(Lauren)
Betrayed
(Lauren)
Friends
(Lauren)
Revenge
(Lauren)
Extra- version .09
.79
202
.06
.43
202
.04
.84
201
.00
.94
202
.10
.15
202
.04
.55
201
.00
.97
201
.02
.744
201
.06
.42
201
.03
.64
199
Agree-ableness .16*
.02
204
.07
.32
204
.08
.24
203
.08
.23
204
.35**
.00
204
.17*
.01
203
.12
.09
203
.10
.16
203
.04
.56
203
.31**
.00
201
Conscie-ntious-ness .00
.98
203
.04
.53
203
.07
.34
203
.03
.68
203
.00
.96
203
.02
.77
202
.01
.94
202
.00
.96
202
.04
.56
202
.02
.83
200
Neuro-ticism .27**
.00
204
.23**
.00
204
.19**
.00
204
.02
.78
204
.03
.63
204
.03
.66
203
.12
.08
203
.12
.08
203
.07
.35
203
.01
.87
201
Open-ness .13
.09
184
.01
.85
184
.06
.42
183
.01
.91
184
.01
.91
184
.09
.21
184
.09
.23
184
.15*
.05
184
.02
.81
184
.03
.72
182
Machiav-ellianism .02
.78
234
.06
.38
234
.03
.70
233
.07
.30
234
.30**
.00
234
.00
.97
233
.08
.25
233
.03
.71
233
.11
.09
233
.29**
.00
231
Psycho-pathy .04
.54
232
.09
.16
232
.04
.57
231
.00
.98
232
.34**
.00
232
.02
.81
231
.06
.36
231
.03
.65
231
.03
.66
231
.29**
.00
229
Narc-issism .11
.09
233
.24**
.00
233
.18**
.00
232
.28**
.00
233
.28**
.00
233
.08
.23
232
.21**
.00
232
.17**
.01
232
.09
.19
232
.23**
.00
230
Dark Triad Total .07
.30
234
.17*
.01
234
.10
.12
233
.03
.68
234
.38**
.00
234
.04
.54
233
.15*
.03
233
.10
.15
233
.07
.27
233
.33**
.00
231
Each cell includes, in order, r,p,andN. Note that p is based on a two-tailed test
*p<.
05; **p<.01
Curr Psychol
of estrangements leads to such outcomes as having a Dark
approach to social relationships and depression. Future
research that is able to examine these questions with
greater experimental control would be needed to help elu-
cidate this issue.
Study 2 did utilize an experimental methodology, but the
methods used only shed light on factors associated with po-
tentially causing reactions to transgressions. Further, Study 2
used a vignette-based approach to examining social and emo-
tional reactions. Thus, while this study had strong experimen-
tal control, the findings may be limited in terms of ecological
validity. Reports of how one might respond to being slighted
by Victor or Lauren may not map onto real-life reactions to
real-life situations. Future research on these questions could
benefit from using more ecologically valid stimuli.
Bottom Line
In our quest to live happy and well-functioning lives, having
strong and harmonious social connections is essential. This
point, which is foundational in the field of positive psycholo-
gy (see Seligman 2011), can stand to benefit from an evolu-
tionarily informed framework such as the framework used to
come up with the questions examined in the studies presented
here. The emerging concept of positive evolutionary psychol-
ogy (see Geher and Wedberg 2020)hasthecapacitytoallow
us to ask novel and powerful questions that bear on the goals
of positive psychology.
The studies presented here, which inform our understand-
ing of factors associated with the functioning of social rela-
tionships, provide examples of how the evolutionary approach
can help advance our understanding of what it means to live
the good life. Future research into such important facets of the
human experience as community, happiness, and social con-
nections could benefit from the employment of such a
framework.
Acknowledgements Gratitude goes to SUNY New Paltz for providing a
sabbatical leave to the first author that allowed this research to be con-
ducted. Thanks also to scholars and students across Florida who provided
substantive feedback on the ideas in this work, including Kevin Lanning,
David Bjorklund, Stefan Ragnarsson, Michael McCullough, Debra
Lieberman, Nate Pipitone, Laura Frost, Juliana French, and Stacey
Makhanova.
Funding This research was approved by the SUNY New Paltz Human
Ethics Research Board. Letter of evidence is below, as is the approved
informed consent statement:
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest No known conflicts of interest connected with the
content of this manuscript exist between the authors and any external
parties.
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... openness to express manipulative and exploitative behavior (Lee & Ashton, 2014) and can manifest in aversive or problematic interpersonal outcomes (Maples-Keller & Miller, 2018). Although research has begun to test the relation between components of the DT and victims' PTRs (Geher et al., 2019;Giammarco & Vernon, 2014;Neria, Vizcaino, & Jones, 2016), more research is needed to better understand how these variables relate, the theoretical explanations for the relations, and the boundary conditions that facilitate or hinder the relations. The purpose of this research was to test how the DT relates to victims' motivation to avoid, seek revenge against, and forgive transgressors, one theoretical mechanism explaining these associations, indignation, and one interpersonal factor potentially qualifying them, transgressors' apologies. ...
... Avoidance has been found to be negatively related to psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism (Neria et al., 2016). Revenge-taking, in comparison, is positively associated with all three traits (Geher et al., 2019). Forgiveness is related negatively to psychopathy and Machiavellianism but positively with narcissism (Giammarco & Vernon, 2014). ...
... Indignation in this sense can be understood as the self-focused equivalent to empathy and is likely to be experienced when one feels anger as a function of being unfairly victimized (Book & Quinsey, 2004;Lindebaum & Geddes, 2016). Although emphasizing oneself as a victim of unfair treatment in interpersonal contexts is a characteristic of the social motivation process in general (Shnabel & Nadler, 2008), it is a particular core characteristic of the DT (Ok, Qian, Strejcek, & Aquino, 2021) because it is represented by interpersonal (Geher et al., 2019) and moral self-preservation as well as general manipulative tactics to get what one wants such as deterring or avoiding future transgressions (Ok et al., 2021). Given this, we propose that victims geared toward the DT will be especially likely to embody the experience of indignation to emphasize their victimization (Ok et al., 2021). ...
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Book
Positive evolutionary psychology is essentially the use of evolutionary psychological principles and research to help advance the goals associated with positive psychology. Positive psychologists focus on ways that we can advance the lives of individuals and communities by focusing on factors that increase positive outcomes such as life satisfaction and happiness. Evolutionary psychology uses the principles of evolution, based on Darwin’s understanding of life, to help shed light on any and all kinds of psychological phenomena. Positive evolutionary psychology , thus, is the use of Darwin’s big idea to help people and communities experience more positive and fulfilling lives. Across 11 chapters, this book (a) describes the basic ideas of both evolutionary and positive psychology; (b) elaborates on the integration of these two fields as a way to help advance the human condition; (c) discusses several domains of human functioning from the perspective of positive evolutionary psychology; and (d) looks with an eye toward the future of work in this field. Over the past few decades, evolutionary psychologists have begun to crack the code on such phenomena as happiness, gratitude, resilience, community, and love. This book describes these facets of the human experience in terms of both (a) their evolutionary origins and (b) how we might guide people to optimally experience such positive phenomena in their everyday lives.
Chapter
Dealing with environmental stressors is a basic part of life for any organism. Positive psychology focuses largely on the topic of resilience and how people can move past difficult situations and interactions. The evolutionary perspective has much to offer in terms of the topic of resilience. This chapter describes resilience and stress reactions from an evolutionary perspective. Further, this chapter uses the concept of natural selection as a model for how failures are to be expected and how success in any domain for any organism owes largely to a long string of failures. This model is used to help provide evolution-based guidance on the topic of moving forward after setbacks and developing a resilient approach to life.
Article
Dark Triad traits (narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy) are characterized by manipulation, emotional coldness, and a lack of empathy. The current studies investigated the influence of Dark Triad traits on heterosexual women’s infidelity and romantic revenge. For Study 1, women (N = 102) completed the Mach IV, NPI-16, Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale, bespoke Infidelity Experience Scale, Intentions Towards Infidelity Scale, and Susceptibility to Infidelity Instrument. Findings demonstrated that Dark Triad traits predict prior experience of infidelity, intentions to engage in infidelity and perceived susceptibility to a partner’s infidelity. Narcissism and secondary psychopathy were the most influential traits. For Study 2, women (N = 108) completed the aforementioned Dark Triad trait measures and responded to a hypothetical scenario describing a partner’s infidelity. Dark Triad traits predicted each type of revenge assessed except willingness to terminate the relationship. Secondary psychopathy was the only Dark Triad trait to emerge as a significant individual predictor. Together, these studies demonstrate that Dark Triad traits predict women’s own infidelity, their perceived vulnerability to a partner’s infidelity and revenge in response to this infidelity. Findings also highlight the importance of distinguishing between primary and secondary psychopathy.
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This article reports the development and validation of a scale to measure global life satisfaction, the Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS). Among the various components of subjective well-being, the SWLS is narrowly focused to assess global life satisfaction and does not tap related constructs such as positive affect or loneliness. The SWLS is shown to have favorable psychometric properties, including high internal consistency and high temporal reliability. Scores on the SWLS correlate moderately to highly with other measures of subjective well-being, and correlate predictably with specific personality characteristics. It is noted that the SWLS is suited for use with different age groups, and other potential uses of the scale are discussed.
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Ostracism—being excluded and ignored—is a pervasive phenomenon that occurs in a variety of contexts and cultures throughout the world. Diary studies indicate it occurs on a daily basis. Ostracism is painful and distressing psychologically to the person experiencing it, even when it is innocuous and brief. Researchers argue humans evolved detection systems so that individuals can accurately detect and avoid ostracism. Several forms of evidence needed to support a psychological adaptation, such as cross-cultural, hunter-gather, medical, phylogenetic, and physiological evidence, support this adaptation argument. However, direct experimental evidence that appropriate detecting (and responding to) ostracism promotes nature’s criteria (i.e., solves fitness-relevant problems focused on survival and reproduction) would help bolster the case for an adaptation. We review the extant literature through the framework of nature’s criteria, and then propose that direct experimental tests of ostracism detection using research methods from evolutionary psychology and animal models will both add further support to an adaptation argument, and offer fruitful ways of approaching unanswered questions in this research area. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)