Delroy Paulhus


Relevant Degree Programs


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2021)
The psychology of everyday sadism (2018)

Although psychological conceptions of sadism have traditionally viewed it as a clinical-forensic disorder, there is emerging scientific interest in the view that sadism extends to the normal range of personality. Sadistic personality is defined as an enduring tendency to enjoy cruelty toward others. To capture the full scope of this trait, I constructed and validated a self-report questionnaire—the Comprehensive Assessment of Sadistic Tendencies (CAST)—designed to assess three overlapping, but distinct facets of sadism, covering enjoyment of physical violence, verbal aggression, and violent media consumption. As part of the psychometric evaluation and validation process (Chapter 2), I administered the CAST to multiple samples of university students and community adults (total N = 5,553). Results from exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses supported the CAST’s three-factor structure. The instrument produced excellent internal consistency and test-retest reliability estimates. Overall CAST scores were positively associated with other malevolent traits (including aggression and the Dark Triad of personality: psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism), and negatively associated with prosocial traits such as empathy. Convergent validity was demonstrated by high correlations between CAST scores and those of alternative unidimensional sadism measures. Discriminant validity was evident in the CAST’s lack of association with theoretically unrelated constructs such as emotional stability. Subsequent research (Chapters 3-5) demonstrated the predictive and incremental validity of the CAST, including the unique contributions of the three subscales. In Chapter 3 (total N = 2,779), sadism was a strong positive predictor of online trolling behavior (which was, in turn, distinguishable from cyberbullying). In Chapter 4 (N = 412), sadism predicted a pattern of inaccurate and negative interpersonal perceptions, with effects emerging for both sadistic perceivers and sadistic targets. In Chapter 5 (total N = 540), sadism predicted tendencies to underestimate others’ suffering and minimize culpability for harm; both effects were statistically explained by positive affect. Taken together, the results support the construct validity of sadistic personality, and the inclusion of sadism in new “Dark Tetrad” of personality.

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Need for mystery: Development and validation of a new construct (2013)

This dissertation introduces a new construct I have labeled Need for Mystery and the scale designed to measure this construct. Need for Mystery (nMyst) is a tendency to maintain cherished beliefs by mystifying them. Instead of the systematic approach entailed by science, such individuals justify their beliefs in ways that are not easily susceptible to proof or disproof and fit with a more intuitive way of understanding the world. In order to study nMyst, I have constructed a questionnaire to measure individual differences in the construct. Included are details of the scale construction and four studies conducted to establish its validity as a measure of nMyst.Study 1(N = 326) evaluated the factor structure of the initially generated item set. It also included a number of other personality scales to begin to assess the nomological network of potentially related constructs. Study 2 (N = 15,630) was collected on Facebook. The final dataset was large enough to allow for independent tests of a number of CFA models. Included was a direct comparison of Western-heritage participants with Chinese-heritage participants. I also tested the nMyst scale items using an Item Response Theory (IRT) analysis and examined the influence of nMyst on religious conversion. Study 3 (N = 360) extended the nomological net to include measures of political attitudes. Participants were recruited using Mechanical Turk. Study 4 (N = 100) specifically addressed issues of discriminant validity and evaluated the temporal stability of the nMyst scale with a 3-month test-retest reliability. These four studies indicate that nMyst is reliable and valid measure that makes a unique contribution to the literature on individual differences in belief.

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Emotional promiscuity: consequences for health and well-being (2011)

Emotional Promiscuity (EP) refers to how easily and often an individual falls in love (Jones, 2011). This dissertation sought to elaborate the construct of EP, validate a questionnaire measure, and investigate the implications of EP for health and well-being. EP is first defined and then conceptually distinguished from relevant variables in the relationships literature such as: romantic idealism, sexual promiscuity, and attachment. A scale to measure EP (the EP scale) was then developed and refined. The process began with the generation of a large pool of items. The items were then narrowed down with a series of principal component and confirmatory factor analyses. From these analyses, the final 10-item Emotional Promiscuity (EP) scale emerged. Its empirical two-facet structure maps onto the two aspects of promiscuity: frequency and ease. A series of survey studies were then conducted to examine the convergent, and discriminant, and criterion validity of the EP scale. The EP scale exhibited modest positive correlations with sexual promiscuity, anxious attachment, borderline personality, and romantic idealism but weak correlations with other, less relevant, relationship variables. The EP scale was also associated with retrospective reports of major relationship outcomes including number of relationships and times engaged to be married. Among women, EP and sexual promiscuity interacted to predict multiple pregnancies from different partners. Two studies then examined the ability of the EP scale to predict emotional infidelity. The EP scale predicted both past reports of emotional infidelity and prospective emotional infidelity using a diary study. The EP scale also had an important health application: High scores on both the EP scale and Sociosexuality Orientation Inventory predicted unprotected sexual partners (for women only). I conclude with an overview and conclusion suggesting future directions and important implications for EP and the EP scale. Taken together, the studies in this dissertation indicate that EP is a viable psychological construct and that the EP scale is a valid and reliable instrument capable of predicting important relationship outcomes.

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Exploring the dynamics of revenge (2009)

Although its consequences can be devastating, revenge is surprisingly understudied. In this dissertation, I address several key questions. For example, are the factors that trigger revenge the same across different individuals? What are the psychological processes that facilitate revenge? Does revenge have any adaptive value? These issues were addressed with a series of three studies. Study 1 explored whether personality predictors of self-reported revenge generalize across four specific transgressions. Results indicated that narcissists were only vengeful after social rejection whereas psychopaths and neurotics tended to be vengeful across transgressions. Study 2 expanded on these results by exploring trait-level vengeful fantasies and vengeful behaviors and the impact of a potential mediator, namely, anger rumination. Neuroticism was shown to be predictive of vengeful fantasies: This association was entirely mediated by anger rumination. Psychopathy predicted vengeful behavior: This association was partially mediated by vengeful fantasies. Study 3 involved the analysis of participants' personal anecdotes about how they reacted to transgressions against them. Coded variables included revenge as well as 10 other coping behaviors: These 11 predictors were then evaluated with respect to their impact on both immediate relief and long-term recovery. Although the revenge option fostered immediate relief, it did not benefit long-term recovery. Only one coping behavior (meaning-making) actually fostered recovery. The contributions and limitations of this research plus suggestions for future studies are discussed.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2020)
Exploiting psycholinguistic predictors to develop the Vocabulary Overclaiming in English (VOCE) measure (2015)

The overclaiming technique (OCT) measures both knowledge and the tendency to exaggerate knowledge. While proven useful in several domains, deeper understanding of the nature of overclaiming, especially the role of foils, is hampered by lack of standardization and volatility of items. Here I present three studies using English vocabulary as a proxy for general knowledge. Studies 1 and 2 focused on item selection for a 50-item instrument dubbed Vocabulary Overclaiming in English (VOCE). Study 3 confirmed test-retest and concurrent validity. Finally, we examined the pooled item set to search for systematic patterns of linguistic predictors of item performance. In sum, the use of psycholinguistic predictors helped systematize item selection in developing the VOCE, a general measure of overclaiming with commendable psychometric properties.

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