Machiavellianism and female friendships: Investigating behaviour through self-report and observational methods

Abell, Loren (2016) Machiavellianism and female friendships: Investigating behaviour through self-report and observational methods. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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There is a paucity of research investigating Machiavellianism and its influence on female behaviour, and specifically, female behaviour with same-sex friends. Furthermore, there is a lack of research investigating the subtle (manipulative) behaviour that may be associated with Machiavellianism. The current set of studies investigated Machiavellianism and behaviour in women’s dyadic friendships and girl’s peer relations. Study 1a and 1b used online self-report questionnaires and demonstrated women higher on Machiavellianism reported using emotional manipulation towards one specific close friend and reported to do that frequently. These women also perceived that their friend employed emotional manipulation towards them. The second study used observation methodology to record behaviour that women with higher Machiavellianism scores may engage in with a same-sex friend. This second study revealed that women with higher Machiavellianism scores asked their friend more elaboration questions whilst their partner looked at the environment more. This may suggest women higher in Machiavellianism seek information whilst their friend appears to show withdrawal from the interaction. The relationships between Machiavellianism and friendship functions were also investigated in those two studies. Women higher on Machiavellianism in study 1a and 1b reported their friendships to be lower in companionship, help, intimacy, and emotional security. Study 2 demonstrated differences with Machiavellianism and friendship functions with regards to the length of the friendship. Women with higher Machiavellianism scores who had been in the friendship for 12 months or less reported the friend to provide less companionship and emotional security. These two functions of friendship may be particularly salient in new friendships, especially recently established friendships in the new university environment. Study 3 also used observation methodology and investigated two components of Machiavellianism (Lack of Faith and Distrust) and girls’ behaviour with same-sex peers on their school playground. This study showed that girls with higher Distrust scores engaged in less social exclusion behaviour and girls with higher Lack of Faith scores or higher Distrust scores spent less time rejecting other children’s bids to join their social group. Finally, an additional study is presented in this thesis which investigated the Big-Five (measured by the ten-item Big-Five TIPI) and Machiavellianism in women. Regression analyses were conducted with the Big-Five traits to explore how much variance (influence) the Big-Five accounted for in Machiavellianism. The three traits of Openness, Conscientiousness, and Agreeableness accounted for variance in Machiavellianism, although this variance was minimal. Strong conclusions could not be drawn from this study given the TIPI’s poor reliability and inability to distinguish between further facets of the Big-Five. The first three studies in this thesis suggest females engage in subtle manipulation strategies directed towards same-sex friends. The two observation studies suggest a potential developmental pathway for females with higher Machiavellianism scores which includes avoiding detection from same-sex friends. These observation studies also indicated that these girls and women demonstrated behaviour that their friend or peers did not accept, although this specific behaviour requires further investigation. The studies presented in this thesis suggest further dyadic and longitudinal research is needed to (1) explore Machiavellianism and behaviour in female friendships and (2) investigate role of the Big-Five in the development of Machiavellianism.

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