People who report their victimhood more often are more likely to lie, cheat and engage in other unethical behavior to get ahead, even at the expense of others, this recent study suggests.
People also encourage the signaling of victimhood by giving resources to those who do.
According to the study, conducted by researchers at Columbia University, people who tend to victimize are also more likely to have dark triad personality traits:
- Narcissism : giving yourself a lot of importance.
- Machiavellianism : strategic exploitation.
- Psychopathy : insensitivity and cynicism.
This could happen because, while being seen as a victim can lead to a loss of esteem and respect, being a victim in modern Western societies can increase one’s social status , or it can bring you more material benefits.
In other words, contemporary Western democracies, which hold strong egalitarian values, have become particularly hospitable settings for victims to execute a non-reciprocal resource extraction strategy. Because any difference in results is perceived as illegitimate, so saying that you don’t have as much as everyone else and that you are suffering from it can be a clever way to obtain material resources .
If the person also appears to be morally good, then the payoff is greater: pointing out both victimhood and virtue would maximize one’s ability to extract resources. People have greater sympathy for a victim who is also a good person .
As the authors warn, there are naturally real victims who do not intend to deceive or take advantage of others. The problem is that, alongside these real victims, there appear fakers who will put into practice the strategies that maximize the rewards of material resources, sex or prestige . People with dark triad traits will adapt their strategies to reap these benefits, depending on their social settings.
Trying to clarify the ultimate reasons why people behave in a certain way, well, we stop staying with the apparent and discover a jungle of subtle interactions that allow us to respond in a more profound way to questions such as: Why a good person is a good person? Out of selfishness or altruism?