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Collabra: Psychology




Which individual differences accurately predict one’s decision to get tested for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and do individuals who have regular short-term sex get tested at higher rates? Two studies—one lab study (total valid N = 69, with n = 20 who were tested) and one involving a student health center (valid N = 250, n = 4 who were tested)—involved participants (total valid N = 319, with n = 24 who got tested) taking a number of personality and individual difference measures, including the dark triad (Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy). Then, in both studies, participants had the opportunity to actually get tested for HIV. After analyzing data from Study 1, for Study 2 we preregistered the prediction that narcissistic participants would tend to (a) show disinclination to get tested for HIV, and (b) show proclivity for unrestricted short-term sexual behavior, manifesting in (c) a significant difference between these two correlations. As predicted, such a difference in correlations was evident for narcissism as well as psychopathy (the latter, however, was not predicted), suggesting that such individuals are not likely to seek HIV diagnostic information, but are taking more sexual risks. A research synthesis was consistent with these ideas (although controlling for demographic factors diminished the effects). Narcissistic and psychopathic individuals may be undetected hubs in the network of sexually active individuals with HIV. These results are silent on whether the typical HIV patient is narcissistic or psychopathic; the results merely implicate narcissistic and psychopathic traits in the spread of the virus.


Georgia Southern University faculty members, Stephen W. Carden, Stacy W. Smallwood, and Janice N. Steirn, co-authored Individual Difference Correlates of Being Sexually Unrestricted Yet Declining an HIV Test.


This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.