Psychology ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 3-25-2019


Everyday sadism is thus far a poorly operationalized personality trait. In its current conceptualization it offers predictive value for aggressive behavior over and above the effects of other antisocial personality traits. To improve the utility of this potentially critical predictor of socially undesirable behavior I conducted an exploratory study that more precisely examines its psychometric structure and informs its evolutionary significance. Due to the scarcity of research on everyday sadism (which is additionally limited by the trait’s poor operationalization) I suggest a functional hypothesis for its evolution based largely on theoretical reasoning. I propose this hypothesis for everyday sadism with the goal of providing useful direction to a field that has otherwise been exploring disjointed questions with various unjustified measures. This hypothesis conceptualizes everyday sadism as one manifestation of aggression enjoyment and proposes a second manifestation I here call “prosocial” sadism. I constructed a novel scale, the Prosocial Aggression Motivation Scale (PAMS), and a corresponding vignette measure for both this scale and the Short Sadistic Impulse Scale (SSIS) to determine to what extent these purported types of sadism differ. I then measured and compared the relationships between these sadism measures and social strategy variables—dominance, prestige, and need to belong—to provide preliminary evidence in support of or against my functional hypothesis. I found everyday and “prosocial” sadism to be strongly correlated measures that capture shared variance but also unique and seemingly meaningful variance each. Relative associations with social strategies and personality traits generally support my functional hypothesis. I discuss implications for this hypothesis and its re-specification, and make suggestions for subsequent research.

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Marco Del Giudice

Second Committee Member

Steven Gangestad

Third Committee Member

Geoffrey Miller




sadism, everyday sadism, dark triad, personality, social status, dominance

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Included in

Psychology Commons