Deconstructing the association between psychopathy and political orientation: Is it attributable to moral intuitions or moral competency?

Jeremy G. Gay, David A. Lishner, Michael J Vitacco, Courtney Beussink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Past research has found evidence for an association between psychopathy and political orientation. We suggest this relationship could be explained by individual differences in psychopathic traits and location along the conservative-liberal continuum corresponds to similar variability in moral competence or reliance on certain moral intuitions. To explore these possibilities, two direct replication studies were conducted in which measures of psychopathy, political orientation, moral competency, and moral intuitions were administered to two samples of Amazon Mechanical Turk participants (N = 240 in Study 1, N = 224 in Study 2). After aggregating the data, multiple regression analyses revealed Cold-heartedness, but not Fearless Dominance or Self-Centered Impulsivity, was positively associated with political conservatism. This association was largely attributable to differences in prioritizing individuating moral intuitions, as opposed to binding moral intuitions. Neither psychopathic traits nor political orientation were appreciably associated with moral competency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128-134
Number of pages7
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Publication statusPublished - Oct 15 2019



  • Moral intuitions
  • Moral judgment
  • Political affiliation
  • Psychopathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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