Date of Award

Fall 12-8-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Dr. Eric Dahlen

Committee Member 2

Dr. Richard Mohn

Committee Member 3

Dr. Donald Sacco

Committee Member 4

Dr. Michael Madson


Aggressive behavior is associated with many adverse consequences, prompting extensive research on the potential adaptive functions of aggression. For example, there is evidence that aggression may be beneficial for attaining status and attracting a potential mate (e.g., Buss & Dedden, 1990; Daly & Wilson, 1988; Griskevicius et al., 2009). Additionally, several personality traits have been identified as robust predictors of aggressive behavior (e.g., psychopathic, Machiavellian, narcissistic, and sadistic traits; Chester et al., 2019; Neumann & Hare, 2008; Paulhus & Jones, 2017; Twenge & Campbell, 2003). These two research traditions (i.e., evolutionary and personality) have remained separate, with few studies combining methods and variables. This study examined these relationships by assessing personality traits relevant to aggression that have demonstrated distinct associations with status acquisition and mate seeking (i.e., psychopathic, narcissistic, Machiavellian, and sadistic personality traits), activating mate seeking and status motives through vignettes, and measuring responses to a scenario designed to provoke aggression. While these vignettes had the intended priming effects for women, this was not the case for men. This led us to omit men from the primary analysis and examine them separately in exploratory analyses. Contrary to our hypotheses, motivation to attract a mate, motivation to achieve status, and dark personality traits (i.e., psychopathic, narcissistic, Machiavellian, and sadistic traits) did not predict women’s responses to an aggression-provoking situation. The expected interactions between motivational states and personality variables were also non-significant.