The Greater The Player, The Harder The Game.

This is part of the PerPost Project and is a summarization of the following research paper: Machiavellianism and Intimacy Attitudes in the Interpersonal Relationships by Chi-Fai Lo and Eva Chor-Bing Ng; published on 3/6/19 by the Scientific Research Open Access platform.

Sometimes we use science to prove things that we inherently already know. This is definitely the case for the paper I am reviewing in this post. While it seems obvious to state that people who emotionally manipulate others have intimacy issues, this paper does a great job at analyzing the impact that these intimacy issues have on the person’s ability to empathize with and love others.

The thesis statement of the original paper is as follows:

I think this is a good summary of the thesis statement:

A person who has a significant degree of Machiavellianism is a player. The original paper describes these traits as “lacking conventional morals, being emotionally manipulative, and exploiting others for their own self-interest.”

If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck- it’s a duck. But Machiavellianism traits can vary in severity. So, a person with these traits can be anywhere from just flirty to someone who is a straight up lying, manipulating, selfish, cheater.

Photo by Ioana Casapu on Unsplash

There is a 20 question test that anyone can take that measures how much of a player they are, it’s called “the Mach-IV scale.” It focuses on the level of deception a person is willing to undertake, how cynical that person is, and how much (if any) morality the person has. You can take the test here.

If someone gets a high score on the test, they are a “High-Machs” but we’ll just call them super players. If they score low on the test they are called “Low Machs.” I’ll refer to the Low Machs as flirts, just to keep things simple.

The paper concludes that high-Machs will almost “never hesitate to break alliances, promises, and rules in order to achieve their goals” meaning players are generally not loyal, they cheat, and then they lie about cheating.

Basically, a person who has some degree of Machiavellianism is a player.

If someone shows high levels of the character trait called Machiavellianism they are going to struggle a lot with intimacy and be really emotionally manipulative. If they have only a few of these traits they’ll likely have some intimacy issues but they won’t be completely detached and unemotional.

Machiavellianism and Interpersonal Relationships (section 1.2)

Super players place very little importance on having close, intimate, relationships. This begs the question: why do they date at all?

It appears that super players are motivated to date because it gives them the opportunity to manipulate someone else mentally and emotionally. They will get into relationships simply because the other person can benefit them.

People who scored low on the Mach-IV test (the “flirts”) were found to have higher positive intimacy than people who scored high on the Mach-IV test.

If they are super players, let them go because it is likely part of their nature and they won’t change- but if they are just flirts there is hope for them.

Positive intimacy is defined in the paper as: “the degree to which a person wants to share feelings, ideas, and experiences in their interpersonal relationship.” So, basically, flirts have a high level of positive intimacy and are more honest about their feelings than super players are.

I found it interesting that super players report having low levels of relationship satisfaction. My interpretation of this is: it’s not that their relationships aren’t good, it’s that super players just aren't satisfied with them.

The researchers had their subjects take a test called the Intimacy Attitudes Scale-Revised (also called the IAS-R test) to get their subjects’ intimacy score. They concluded that the higher a person’s “Mach-Score” on the Mach-IV test, the lower their intimacy level score on the IAS-R test.

The paper cites a source that found that the more Machiavellianism traits a person has, the less intimacy they show. Along these same lines, super players tend to have a high degree of distrust and lack of loyalty in relationships.

People with high Machiavellianism are not loyal, they cheat, and then they lie about cheating.

Key Findings/ Conclusion

The paper quotes this as a key conclusion: “the hypothesis that the Mach-IV Scale score is negatively correlated with the ISA-R score is confirmed.”

Translated, the key conclusion is: the higher the Mach-IV score the lower the ISA-R score. Which means that the more player traits someone has, the lower intimacy level they have. On the opposite end, a person who only has a few Machiavellianism traits will have a pretty normal level of intimacy.

Why Is This Important?

Sometimes we think of a person’s bad qualities as character traits that they exhibit sometimes, but we don’t recognize them as the person's true intention. We are a little blind when it comes to love.

For example, if a girl’s boyfriend cheated on her she may justify it by saying “he really does love me, he just has commitment issues.”

Photo by Ioana Casapu on Unsplash

The findings in this paper strongly suggest that the boyfriend's unfaithful behavior is not a momentary slip of judgment but is instead a characteristic of the boyfriend that he will probably never “grow out of.”

People (women and men) with high Machiavellianism are characterized by being selfish, emotionally distant, and unempathetic. They are happy to manipulate others on an emotional basis to get what they want.

The good news is that this paper found that Machiavellianism is not an either or type of personality. People can have a few Machiavellianism-like traits (like maybe they are just naturally flirty) or many Machiavellianism traits (like they enjoy the thrill of cheating on and lying to their partner). For your own mental clarity, it is important to be aware of the characteristics of Machiavellianism and judge the level of these traits your partner exhibits.

If they are super players, let them go because it is likely part of their nature and they won’t change- but if they are just flirts there is hope for them.

Thank you for reading this post. These statements reflect my personal interpretation of the original paper and though I tried to be as unbiased and accurate as possible, it should be noted that this is my opinion of the experiments the researchers conducted and of the conclusions they drew.

Endlessly curious about the human condition. Founder of Studio Upstart. Chief of Staff @ Untapped Ventures.

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