Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Lebenswissen­schaftliche Fakultät - Institut für Psychologie

Dark Side

The "Dark Side" of Social Cognition

Wissenschaftlerin: Renata Wacker



The ability to understand others´ thoughts, intentions and feelings specifically contributes to interpersonal cooperation. However, how do less prosocial individuals apply their mindreading capacities in the context of strategic social interaction? An intriguing initial perspective on this question was offered by the Machiavellian intelligence hypothesis (Whiten & Byrne, 1988), according to which one ultimate function of social cognition lies in the realization of competitively motivated behavior, e.g. manipulation of interaction partners.

The aim of this project is to explore the “dark side” of social cognition by studying individuals with socially aversive personality traits as machiavellianism and psychopathy. We apply ecological valid tests as well as online interaction paradigms to assess social cognition. Furthermore, we aim to explore the opportunities to model mindreading during strategic social interaction on the basis of computational approaches (e.g. hierarchical levels of Theory of Mind).

We suggest that our understanding of the complex nature of social cognition can be meaningfully complemented by elucidating its “dark side” more closely.