13th Annual Scholarship (April 2012)

​             made to  Dr. Livia Veselka from Canada

on the subject of Development and behavioural genetic investigation of a framework of antisocial personality

Report Abstract (834 words):

A prevalent theme in personality research has been the pursuit of a sound framework of human traits. Numerous personality hierarchies have been put forth, each offering a unique perspective on the potential manner in which traits can be organized. Of these proposed frameworks, the Five-Factor Model (FFM; Costa & McCrae, 1992) is currently the most popular, and the conventional means by which the structure of personality is presently understood. Despite the considerable volume of existing empirical evidence supporting the FFM, criticisms regarding the model have been raised (e.g., Eysenck, 1992). Among these criticisms is the suggestion that the model is limited, particularly given its inability to account fully for individual differences in antisocial human behavior. For instance, it has been noted that negative personality traits show inconsistent correlations with the FFM, although they demonstrate strong, significant associations with established community-level antisocial personality variables (Veselka, Schermer, & Vernon, 2012).

To begin the exploration of a theoretical domain that has been predominantly overlooked in research guided by the conventional FFM model—that of sub-clinical antisocial traits—our primary goal was to develop and validate a measure that broadly assesses individual differences in socially disruptive behavior. In the analysis, socially disruptive behavior was defined as variation in traits that fall within the classification of the secularly-defined seven deadly sins: pride, envy, wrath, sloth, greed, gluttony, and lust. These traits have been recognized cross-culturally as representing malevolent conduct or negative emotions (D’Arms & Jacobson, 2000).

In generating an initial set of items for our measure, a construct-oriented approach was used (Hinkin, 1998). In accordance with this approach, we defined each sin, outlined its positive and negative pole, and generated items describing relevant behaviors that were neither too common nor too uncommon to allow for sufficient variability in subsequent responding. The resultant questionnaire was the initial 132-item version of the Vices and Virtues Scale (VAVS; Veselka, Giammarco, & Vernon, 2012).

A total of 1,055 adults from North America between the ages of 17 and 79 years (M = 23.07, SD = 7.24) completed the VAVS. Specifically, the sample comprised 342 males, 711 females, and two individuals who did not specify their sex. Participants also filled out the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale (MCSD; Crowne & Marlow, 1960) measuring socially desirable responding.

Item-level analyses of the items comprising the VAVS led to a refinement of the scale and a reduction of its initial item count. Items were deleted if they showed low variability (SD < 1.0 on a 5-point scale), exhibited a corrected item-total correlation smaller than .20, or if their correlation with either total MCSD or with the remaining vice subscales was .20 or greater than their correlation with their own subscale. In these analyses, multiple imputation was used to estimate missing values, and the data were controlled for age and sex.

Factor analytic analyses were also carried out to assess the structure of the VAVS using the software Mplus Version 6.12 (Muthén & Muthén, 1998-2012). Solutions ranging from 1 to 7 factors following oblique rotation were assessed. The seven-factor model was found to be the best-fitting model (RMSEA = .05), with all remaining models exhibiting poorer fit than that of the seven-factor solution. Confirmatory factor analysis of the reduced items revealed a satisfactory seven-factor structure, with all but two items loading significantly on their intended subscale, and the subscale factors exhibiting significant moderate correlations between one another. The non-significant items were deleted from the measure. A final scale of 90 items was retained.

The above-described research, which is the first step in a systematic analysis of the extent to which conventional and alternative models of personality can account for individual differences in sub-clinical socially aversive traits, would not have been possible without the financial support provided by the H. J. Eysenck Memorial Fund Award.


Costa, P. T., Jr., & McCrae, R. R. (1992). NEO-PI-R Professional Manual-Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PIR) and NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI). Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

Crowne, D. P., & Marlowe, D. (1960). A new scale of social desirability independent of psychopathology. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 24, 349-354.

D’Arms, J., & Jacobson, D. (2000). The moralistic fallacy: On the appropriateness of emotions. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 61, 65-90.

Eysenck, H. J. (1992). Four ways five factors are not basic. Personality and Individual Differences, 13, 667-673.

Hinkin, T. R. (1998). A brief tutorial on the development of measures for use in survey questionnaires. Organizational Research Methods, 1, 104-121.

Muthén, L. K. & Muthén, B. O. (1998-2012). Mplus user’s guide. Seventh Edition. Los Angeles, CA: Muthén & Muthén.

Paunonen, S. V., & Jackson, D. N. (2000). What is beyond the Big Five? Plenty! Journal of Personality, 68, 821-835.

Veselka, L., Giammarco, E. A., & Vernon, P. A. (2012). The Dark Triad and the seven deadly sins. Poster presented at the convention of the Canadian Psychological Association, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, June.

Veselka, L., Schermer, J. A., & Vernon, P. A. (2012). The Dark Triad and an expanded framework of personality. Personality and Individual Differences, 53, 417-425.


Scholarship 13