Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. David Chester

Second Advisor

Dr. Nicholas Thomson

Third Advisor

Dr. Jeffrey Green

Fourth Advisor

Dr. James Bjork


Psychopathy and sadism, personality constructs largely characterized by antagonistic tendencies, share several similar traits and behaviors such as cruelty, callousness, and antisocial behavior. Due to this overlap, it remains unclear whether sadism is simply a facet of psychopathy, or they represent distinct but related constructs. The degree of overlap and distinction between these traits has yet to be empirically and thoroughly examined; therefore, the present project had two overarching interconnected aims: 1) Investigate the degree of psychometric overlap between psychopathy and sadism, and 2) examine potential behavioral distinctions between psychopathy and sadism. In Study 1, participants completed an online battery of questionnaires including the most commonly used sadism measures to examine its factor structure and nomological network (Aim 1). A four-factor structure that was independent from psychopathy was ultimately identified. In Study 2, participants completed an aggression task online to examine the ways in which psychopathy and sadism differentially (or similarly) relate to aggressive behavior (Aim 2). The egocentricity and antisocial facets of psychopathy were positively related to aggression during the task. Contrary to hypotheses, none of the sadism factors were related to task aggression, yet there was a significant interaction between Factor 2 of sadism and condition. This project has the potential to provide valuable insights to theories of antagonistic personality traits and improve clinical and forensic assessment procedures.


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