It has been widely claimed that the social networking website Facebook promotes narcissism. There has even been some scholarship towards the effect. The paper Narcissism on Facebook: Self-promotional and anti-social behavior published by Christopher Carpenter in the journal Personality and Individual Difference reported that Facebook users that scored higher on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory were more like to use the website more often.

Using data from the personality tests on this website I am going to try to verify this research and extend it to all three of the dark triad personality traits (narcissism, machiavellianism and psychopathy). I will draw the data from three separate tests, one for each trait –the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, the MACH-IV, and the Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale– and divide it into two groups, one group that was referred to the tests via Facebook and one group that came to the test via Google (this will serve as the control group, Google users would seem to relatively synonymous with web users, sorry Bing).

The data is graphed below (the vertical scales in each case is the full range each measured by each scale).

As can be seen, those that came to the test through Facebook were actually less narcissistic than individuals who came from Google. Ditto for psychopathy and machivallianism.

So, where does this leave the theory that Facebook is a simmering stew of narcissism? Well, this probably does not say that much as Google users who search out tests of narcissism are probably not an accurate sample of Google users. Still, it is not obviously consistent with the Facebook as narcissism hypothesis.

For the past while I have had the question “What is your favorite movie?” appended to the end of the Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale as an optional “Research item”. Two thousand takes later, lets see what can be learned from the data.

The LSRP measures psychopathy along two scales; primary psychopathy, a selfish, uncaring and manipulative attitude towards others, and secondary psychopathy, which reflects impulsiveness. Scores range from 1 to 5. This analysis will cover primary psychopathy scores.

The sample is 66% male. The average age was 33. The average score was 2.49.

The simplest analysis would be to aggregate scores by favorite movie, which can be seen below. Unfortunately, given the diversity of favorite movies, the sample sizes for each one are rather small and even given the modest threshold for inclusion of n=10, not many movies passed. The error bars are standard error.

So, no movies scored particularly high. If you have a friend who likes A Clockwork Orange, you don’t have to disown them, 3.3 is not concerning. However the movies with lower averages are more interesting. A person who scores 1.9 is, according to self-report, a very good person. If your favorite movie is 2001, pat yourself on the back.

Standard caveats apply.

I took scores on the Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale (n=1733) and averaged them by the hour of the day the test was taken:




The two scales of the LSRP are (1) a selfish, uncaring and manipulative attitude towards others and (2) impulsiveness and instability, scores are on the range 1-5.

There is a clear trend in both: it appears that (speaking from a pacific time zone perspective) the internet is nicest at high-noon and gets meaner and meaner until about 4 am.

To check the reliability of this trend, I divided the scores for primary psychopathy down into the last three months.

Psychopathy scores averaged by hour the test was taken for three months.

The trend does appear to hold true for two out of the three months, April is less pronounced, but still, its probably safe to say….

So, I found an interesting claim:

British journalist Jon Ronson is obsessed with obsessives. He’s best known for writing the book behind the George Clooney film “The Men Who Stare At Goats.” In his latest book, Jon Ronson has turned his own obsessive eye toward psychopaths. The book is called “The Psychopath Test.”

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One of the stranger characteristics of psychopaths is their choice of pets. Ronson says they are almost never cat people. “Because cats are willful,” he explains.

Psychopaths gravitate toward dogs since they are obedient and easy to manipulate. Ronson says he spoke with individuals who would qualify as psychopaths who told him they aren’t sad when they hear about people dying. “But they get really upset when their dogs die because dogs offer unconditional love.”

I was unable to find the justification for this claim with some searching and as such specific statements never tend to be very true, I thought this one should be put to the test.

To this end, I appended the question

If you had to choose, what would you describe yourself as?
A ‘dog person’.
A ‘cat person’.
I don’t want to answer.

to the end of the Psychopathy Scale as a “research item”. The scale is short questionnaire used for the study of psychopathy in adult populations. It can not diagnose psychopathy, but it correlates very well with the Hare Psychopathy Checklist which can. In measures two scales: primary psychopathy (things like arrogance, manipulativeness, callousness, lying) and secondary psychopathy (things like irresponsibility, impulsiveness, lack of long-term goals and boredom proneness).

Here are the results,

Answer Primary psychopathy Secondary psychopathy #
Dog person 2.44 2.67 304
Cat person 2.54 2.84 283
Didn’t answer 2.92 2.94 102

As can be seen, dog people actually scored lower for both dimensions of psychopathy than cat people, although not by much. The claim would appear to be wrong.