The Incidence of Machiavellianism in Early and Middle Adolescent Physically Active Girls


This paper aims to find out if regular and intensive physical activity in the life of adolescent girls

Keywords: Machiavellianismpsychosocial developmentsportadolescence


As Fehr, Samsom, & Paulhus (1992) mention, the concept of Machiavellianism is derived from

the writings of the 16th-century Italian author, Niccolo Machiavelli. In his treatises, The Prince and The

Discourses, Machiavelli presented his view of people as untrustworthy, self-serving, and malevolent, and

advocated that a ruler maintains power in an exploitative and deceitful manner. Some four centuries later,

during the 1960s, Richard Christie proposed that the tendency to accept Machiavelli's worldview was a

measurable individual difference variable. Kowalski (2001) notes that the ‘‘Dark Triad’’ of traits, which

consists of Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy, are considered to be socially aversive

personalities. Machiavellianism is characterized by manipulative behaviours, insincerity, and callousness

(Christie & Geis, 1970). Out of the three Dark Triad traits, Machiavellianism refers to manipulative

strategies of social conduct that are not correlated with general intelligence, and that do not necessarily

lead to success (Wilson, Near & Miller, 1996). Kerig & Sink (2010) describe that the phenomenon

appears to be most relevant to the use of ‘‘sneaky’’, emotionally damaging behaviours that are less likely

to draw negative attention to the perpetrator. McHoskey (2001) claims that Machiavellianism is more

strongly related to men’s than women’s behaviour. Peeters et al. (2010) found that the prevalence of

Machiavellianism is higher in adolescents who engage in indirect bullying, since social manipulation is

required for successful acts of relational aggression. These children, as LaFontana & Cillessen (2002) say,

may perceive aggression and manipulation as necessary to maintain social status or power within a group.

Wilson, Near & Miller (1996) found out that Machiavellianism was positively associated with loneliness,

whereas narcissism showed a nonsignificant negative correlation with loneliness, and negatively

correlated with emotional intelligence. Machiavellianism refers to a tendency to exploit others to one’s

own advantage by adopting a manipulative interpersonal style. Byrne & Whiten (1988) state that although

the construct of Machiavellianism arose only just under 50 years ago, it has previously been described by

a set of skills including cognitive ability for adaptation to complex social situations. A part of these skills

was the ability to manipulate others for the aim of obtaining relevant resources. These capabilities were

known as Machiavellian intelligence and were considered a significant evolutionary advantage.

McHoskey (1999) figures out that individuals with a large extent of Machiavellianism exhibit

motivational orientation focused on control that is manifested in financial aspirations for success, power

and competition, as opposed to building community, care for themselves and family matters. Individuals

with a large extent of Machiavellianism accorded to focus on success and winning at any cost. Generally

speaking, as proved by Hawley (2006), these individuals are more focused on their own goals than the

goals of others. Austin, Farrelly, Black & Moore (2007) point out that individuals with a large extent of

Machiavellianism are emotionally distant when interacting with others, with interpersonal orientation

oriented cognitively rather than emotionally. For this reason, Wilson, Near & Miller (1996) state that

individuals with a large extent of Machiavellianism have difficulties maintaining a healthy, long-term

relationships with others and are more focused on short-term relationships in which they are successful.

Gable & Dangello (1994) outline that individuals with a large extent of Machiavellianism have lower

ethical standards than others, less embarrassment of unethical behaviour and a greater intention to behave

unethically in the future. These individuals are willing to sacrifice truth and morality for their own

interests, rather than being constantly untrue, unethical. Fehr, Samsom & Paulhus (1992) add that at the

same time, these individuals are more tolerant towards people who perpetrate unethical behaviour; the

more common types of strategies for handling these individuals include lying. Wilson, Near & Miller

(1996) emphasise that having taken into account socio-biological perspective, Machiavellian behaviour is

considered as a type of social intelligence, which represents the non-cooperative strategy in game theory.

The argument for an evolutionary justification of Machiavellianism disputes the findings of Vernon et al.

(2008), who found that Machiavellianism behaviour depends more on the environment and less on

heredity, than other reference psychological traits. It was found that Machiavellian behaviour is unrelated

to general intelligence. Machiavellian behaviour increases with age from childhood to late adolescence,

and then decreases again (Wilson, Near & Miller, 1998).

Problem Statement

Machiavellianism is a very interesting phenomenon, especially in the case of adolescents.

Interestingly, it appears in the context of the social climate of today's youth, which is dominated by

individualism. Increasingly, the slope of the concept of competition is already evident in primary schools.

Children respond to the period of social change in their own individual way. Some of the most

competitive and predatory ones are able to meet increasing demands and adapt to changing conditions,

others are not. Current developments of this phenomenon shows signs of psychosocial evolution. On the

one hand, Machiavellian traits enable one to achieve success and better adapt to external conditions, but

on the other hand, such a person may seem immoral and emotionally distant. In our contribution, we try

to inspect Machiavellianism neutrally. It is generally known that physical activity has an impact on the

human body as well as on the human psyche. As the independent variable performs a sport that generally

improves endurance, fitness, and the ability to carry a burden, they will also form positive personality


Research Questions

1.What is the difference in the extent of Machiavellian psychological traits between physically

active and physically non-active adolescent girls in each age group?

2.What is the direct effect of regular and intense physical activity on the extent of Machiavellian

psychological traits in adolescent girls in each age group?

3.What is the mediate effect of regular and intense physical activity by means of body habitus

on the extent of Machiavellian psychological traits in adolescent girls in each age group?

Purpose of the Study

The main aim of the study is to determine the impact of sport on the psychical development of

adolescent girls. The side aims are:

1. To show a direct impact of sport influence on Machiavellianism among girls by comparing

Machiavellian scores between physically active and physically non-active girls in each age group.

2. To show a mediate impact of sport influence on Machiavellianism among girls by means of a

relationship among somatic parameters (body height, body weight, BMI, WHR) and Machiavellian score

in each age group.

Research Methods

The monitoring of psychical development and measuring of somatic state in Slovak girls aged 11

to 15 years old in Nitra (Slovak Republic) was conducted as transversal research. Research sample

includes 330 experimentees in total, 164 physically active girls (PAG) who constitute an experimental

group from a sport-oriented school and 166 non-physically active girls (NPAG) who constitute a control

group. The calculation of chronologic age of the pupils was estimated to the date of measuring in decimal

system in a tenth of year by IBP, as stated by Weiner & Lourie (1969). The basis of the study are data

collected at 5 elementary schools and at 2 secondary grammar Slovak schools with a special focus on

sport education. Measuring was realised on the base agreement of the school director and measured pupil

(parent). Somatometric measuring was realised in frame of standard anthropometric methods (Martin &

Saller, 1967; Fettera et al, 1967). The participants underwent the basic anthropometric measurements of

body mass and body height, measured by a digital medical scale with a stadiometer (InBody BSM370,

BioSpace, Seoul, South Korea). The BMI was calculated from body weight and body height, and

classified in agreement with the following WHO standards: normal weight (<24.9 kg/m2), overweight

(<29.9 kg/m2) and obese (<34.9 kg/m2) (WHO, 2012). The WHO states that abdominal obesity for

females is defined as a waist–hip ratio above 0.85. The WHR was calculated from waist and hip

circumference, and classified in agreement with the WHO standards (WHO, 2011). Waist circumference

was measured in anthropometric point called umbilicalis . Hip circumference was measured through both

trochanters and gluteal area. Psychological tests often used in sport practice figuring out the extent of so-

called Machiavellianism. Machiavellian complex is composed of various spectra of psychological traits.

This test is possible to classify as a scaling. In our study, we used no-origin, modified version of the test.

The test expresses the level of agreement, or self-identification with listed statement. The average range

moves between 24 to 30 points. There is a dependence in that a higher score suggests a higher level of

Machiavellianism (Christie, 1970). We applied descriptive statistical methods for the base analysis of the

investigated parameters. After calculating the Kolmogorov-Smirnov normality test for all parameters,

which confirmed the normality of data distribution, we used the unpaired T-test for the evaluation of

differences between PAG and NPAG. Pearson correlation coefficient was used fortheevaluation of

relationship between somatic parameters and Machiavellianism score. According to Cohen (1988), an

absolute value of r of 0.1 is classified as small, an absolute value of 0.3 is classified as medium and of 0.5

is classified as large. Statistical analysis was performed by STATISTICA software (Version 12; Stat-Soft,

Tulsa, OK, USA). The participants were informed regarding the purpose of this study and provided with a

written consent before participation in the research process.


The achieved score of Machiavellianism turned out an interesting course, which indicates the

mutual overtaking of PAG and NPAG in an increasing trend with age (Table 1 ). 11-year-old PAG scored

more strongly (27.2 points) than NPAG (25.5 points). The difference between the groups reached 1.7

points. 12-year-old NPAG achieved a higher score (27.7 points) than PAG (26.4 points), the difference

reached 1.3 points. 13-year-old PAG achieved a score of 29.9 points, which is significantly higher by 3.4

points (p=0.006) in comparison with NPAG who achieved 26.6 points. The difference in fourteen-year-

old adolescents was minimal (0.5 points). 14-year-old PAG scored (28.4 points) and NPAG scored very

similarly (28.9 points). The score achieved by 15-year-old PAG (30 points) was higher than in NPAG

(28.2 points), but the difference (1.8 points) is not significant. Machiavellian score of PAG at the age of

13 is not different from the score at the age of 15, which means that sport supports and accelerates

Machiavellianism in younger age. Regularly alternating values of score suggest a possible regularity in

the formation of a Machiavellian trait. Sport probably moved the time of higher Machiavellianism score

at the age of 11, to the younger age. At the entrance of 11-year old PAG to the sport class, the girls were

probably prepared for higher demands and harder study conditions. It is possible that they thus better

managed the transition from first to second stage of primary school, which may be one of the many

psychical stressors for adolescents. Among NPAG, there was a slight and natural increase of

Machiavellian score at the age of 12. This is the reason why we observed altering periods of increase and

decrease of scores. The first decrease in PAG was at the age of 12 and the second decrease was at the age

of 14, while in NPAG it was the opposite. The first decrease of NPAG was at the age of 13 and the

second decrease was at the age of 15. We can say that there were differences in Machiavellian score

between PAG and NPAG. Physical activity showed a direct impact on the formation of the psyche among

sport-oriented young girls. Sport supports and also accelerates Machiavellianism already at an early age.

Table 1 -
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Table 2 shows in fact that the relationship between Machiavellian score, age and somatic parameters

among early and middle adolescent girls were not significant by age aspect. This suggests that physical

activity can play a key role in the relationship, although the age is a strong predictor (Table 3 ). Age is a

strong factor in both groups (PAG and NPAG). The result is more significant in the group of girls with

physical activity. Table 3 shows the total trend of the relationship and confirms that age is a very strong

factor for the dependence of the researched psychological trait on somatic habit.

Table 2 -
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Table 3 points out the total trend (all girls) of the relationship between somatic parameters and

Machiavellian score. There has been detected a slight positive significant linear correlation between

Machiavellianism and body height (r=0.108; p=0.049). This relationship is generally valid throughout the

entire period of early and middle adolescence. Body height has become an important factor for the

development of Machiavellian traits in early and middle adolescent age period.

Table 3 -
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From table 4 , it is evident that Machiavellian behaviour increases with age from early to middle

adolescence, only in NPAG. Mainly, in 15-year-old PAG, the trend is opposite and significant, with the

increasing age of Machiavellian score decreasing (r=0.376; p=0.044). Physical activity has become a

“protect function” for retaining of good moral psychological traits. The Machiavellian score showed a

positive medium correlation with body height (r=0.3486; p=0.051) in PAG at the age of 12. This fact is

confirmed and strengthened by our results from Table 3 . Physical activity acted as a restorative factor for

the development of Machiavellianism. Body height probably represents a socially dominant principle

element. Similar situation occurred for body weight (r=0.333; p=0.063) in PAG at the age of 12.

Table 4 -
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Correlation analysis showed a significant slight positive linear correlation for the relationship

between Machiavellianism and BMI in 15-year-old NPAG (r=0.294; p=0.073). This means that with

increasing values of BMI index, Machiavellian score was increasing, too. Obesity showed a very similar,

but stronger effect, estimated by WHR index with correlation with Machiavellian score in common

population at the age 15. Values of WHR index showed a positive medium linear correlation with

Machiavellian score (r=0.479; p=0.003). In these two cases, physical inactivity and obesity in common

population can effect in favour of development of Machiavellian behaviour. This theory was confirmed

by the trend of 11-year-old PAG, which showed a negative medium linear correlation for the relationship

between Machiavellianism and WHR index (r=-0.376; p=0.044). This trend is typical for sport

population, while WHR was decreased and optimized, Machiavellianism was developed.


The direct impact of sport is significantly evident among 13-year-old PAG (p=0.06), only, they

showed a higher score of Machiavellianism than NAPG 13-year-old girls' group. Machiavellianism

showed a significant impact among 13-year-old girls, mainly. The mediate impact of Machiavellianism

(through body habitus) was significant, but low. We found out small correlations of body height (r=0.108;

p<0.049). Body height has become an important factor for the development of Machiavellian traits in

early and middle adolescent age period. The mediate impact of sport is low to medium, but

Machiavellianism is significantly associated with the development of somatic parameters. Body height

and body weight were significantly restorative factors for the support of Machiavellian behaviour among

12-year-old PAG, also BMI and WHR index were significantly restorative factors for the support of

Machiavellian behaviour among 15-year-old NPAG. Physical activity has a direct impact on the

formation of the psyche among sport-oriented young girls. Sport supports and also accelerates

Machiavellianism already at an early age.


The author would like to thank school staff and schoolchild volunteers who participated in this

research study.


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Cite this article as:

Tománková, K. (2017). The Incidence of Machiavellianism in Early and Middle Adolescent Physically Active Girls. In Z. Bekirogullari, M. Y. Minas, & R. X. Thambusamy (Eds.), Political Science, International Relations and Sociology - ic-PSIRS 2017, vol 21. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 1-9). Future Academy.