Everyday Sadists Take Pleasure In Others’ Pain

Most of the time, we try to avoid inflicting pain on others — when we do hurt someone, we typically experience guilt, remorse, or other feelings of distress. But for some, cruelty can be pleasurable, even exciting. New research suggests that this kind of everyday sadism is real and more common than we might think.

Two studies led by psychological scientist Erin Buckels of the University of British Columbia revealed that people who score high on a measure of sadism seem to derive pleasure from behaviors that hurt others, and are even willing to expend extra effort to make someone else suffer.

The new findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“Some find it hard to reconcile sadism with the concept of ‘normal’ psychological functioning, but our findings show that sadistic tendencies among otherwise well-adjusted people must be acknowledged,” says Buckels.  “These people aren’t necessarily serial killers or sexual deviants but they gain some emotional benefit in causing or simply observing others’ suffering.”

Based on their previous work on the “Dark Triad” of personality, Buckels and colleagues Delroy Paulhus of the University of British Columbia and Daniel Jones of the University of Texas El Paso surmised that sadism is a distinct aspect of personality that joins with three others — psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism — to form a “Dark Tetrad” of personality traits.

To test their hypothesis, they decided to examine everyday sadism under controlled laboratory conditions. They recruited 71 participants to take part in a study on “personality and tolerance for challenging jobs.” Participants were asked to choose among several unpleasant tasks: killing bugs, helping the experimenter kill bugs, cleaning dirty toilets, or enduring pain from ice water.

Participants who chose bug killing were shown the bug-crunching machine: a modified coffee grinder that produced a distinct crunching sound so as to maximize the gruesomeness of the task. Nearby were cups containing live pill bugs, each cup labeled with the bug’s name: Muffin, Ike, and Tootsie.

The participant’s job was to drop the bugs into the machine, force down the cover, and “grind them up.” The participants didn’t know that a barrier actually prevented the bugs from being ground up and that no bugs were harmed in the experiment.

Of the 71 participants, 12.7% chose the pain-tolerance task, 33.8% chose the toilet-cleaning task, 26.8% chose to help kill bugs, and 26.8% chose to kill bugs.

Participants who chose bug killing had the highest scores on a scale measuring sadistic impulses, just as the researchers predicted. The more sadistic the participant was, the more likely he or she was to choose bug killing over the other options, even when their scores on Dark Triad measures, fear of bugs, and sensitivity to disgust were taken into account.

Participants with high levels of sadism who chose to kill bugs reported taking significantly greater pleasure in the task than those who chose another task, and their pleasure seemed to correlate with the number of bugs they killed, suggesting that sadistic behavior may hold some sort of reward value for those participants.

And a second study revealed that, of the participants who rated high on one of the “dark” personality traits, only sadists chose to intensify blasts of white noise directed at an innocent opponent when they realized the opponent wouldn’t fight back. They were also the only ones willing to expend additional time and energy to be able to blast the innocent opponent with the noise.

Together, these results suggest that sadists possess an intrinsic motivation to inflict suffering on innocent others, even at a personal cost — a motivation that is absent from the other dark personality traits.

The researchers hope that these new findings will help to broaden people’s view of sadism as an aspect of personality that manifests in everyday life, helping to dispel the notion that sadism is limited to sexual deviants and criminals.

Buckels and colleagues are continuing to investigate everyday sadism, including its role in online trolling behavior.

“Trolling culture is unique in that it explicitly celebrates sadistic pleasure, or ‘lulz,’” says Buckels. “It is, perhaps, not surprising then that sadists gravitate toward those activities.”

And they’re also exploring vicarious forms of sadism, such as enjoying cruelty in movies, video games, and sports.

The researchers believe their findings have the potential to inform research and policy on domestic abuse, bullying, animal abuse, and cases of military and police brutality.

“It is such situations that sadistic individuals may exploit for personal pleasure,” says Buckels. “Denying the dark side of personality will not help when managing people in these contexts.”

Comments

Sadists have perfected their ways.
First as psychotics who can charm their way into government, law enforcement and even medicine. No one is safe.
Sadistic acts have not only been condoned but legalized.
Sadists do seek each other out and their atrocities are now standard procedure in law enforcement and medical practice. You’ll know it when you see it.

It always involves “for their own good” and a procedure is forced upon them.

The moment you see a forced procedure, you’ll know.

How true, medicine especially. I have personally had a crucial emotional/counselling supportive friendship trashed by an anaesthetist who saw her brother’s well-being as incompatible with her narcissistic demands. That was a manifestation in their 20s. It left me unable to believe that I could have healthy friendships without them being destroyed by a predatory sadist/sociopath.

In their 30s, trashing another friendship.

In their 40s, trashing s business partnership and supporting a football team.

Now in their 50s, utter despot evil.

I gave up in 2006. I am collateral damage of the NHS.

When having nothing to do with them is an act to be crushed, life is no longer worth living. They cannot be prosecuted, they associate with like-minded sickos and for them, the only thing that matters is not their career, but destroying yours.

I wonder what a court would say if I simply killed them and said: ‘I tried everything else first, including appealing for help. I was left with no alternative….’

I am touched reading of your decades of challenge and disappointment.
I truly hope you’ve sought alternatives to murder. Yet I am convinced that contemplating it has been one of the small reliefs you’ve been able to foster.
And recommend a book to you. The Book of Joy with the Dalai Lama.and Desmond Tutu. They too endured great suffering but have found ways to guide many through these labyrinths of mind into clarity.
Sending blessings to you

Let’s not forget the sadistic psychopaths among the Hollywood crowd. Kathy Griffin for one. Bill Mayer another defiant. Narcissistic psychopathic Sadist persons in MSM are not funny. What is so funny in Griffin award comment,”Jesus suck this.” Or holding up a bloodied head of our President. What is really perverse is they remain popular among members of the media minions. Perhaps not Griffin any longer.

it is very surprising to know that people wanting to derive pleasure , by hurting others,sometimes even benign individuals live amongst us.putting up with these everyday sadists is, but a challenging task.understanding such people helps in calming our nerves despite difficulties.

I lived with a narcissist and a sever sadist for over 35 years . One manifestation was dupers delight . She manipulated me and cheated on me constantly . Not satisfied just to cheat she rubbed my nose in it. ” I can do whatever I want and you can’t stop me!” Over a thousand dates with other men . When questioned or challenged she would grin . Years the same grin whenever the lie was being made and pain was inflicted.

I used to have what I thought was a friendship with this woman-I had met her when she and I were children. When I made the unfortunate mistake of seeing her as a friend and confided in her, she made it her mission to constantly rub my nose in it. However, the minute I treated her exactly the same way, suddenly I wasn’t her friend, I was mean, etc. This person to this day, still goes out of her way to make it a point to inflict pain in other people’s lives. She sees nothing wrong with it (I no longer have any contact with her). I did find out however, that her life has taken a turn for the worse (health-related issues). But instead of looking at it as a lesson (treat others the way you want to be treated), she still undoubtedly trash talks people and causes issues for people. Sometimes, people have to lose everything for them to learn the simplest of life’s lessons, if they learn them at all.

I definitely would’ve chosen to help the experimenter kill the bugs, but it for me to justify it to myself there would need to be a legitimate scientific reason to be killing the bugs. I would not have enjoyed crushing the bugs myself. That being said, I have noticed aggressive thoughts before and I think for me it has to do with the internet and tv. Everything is so violent these days. I’m so used to thinking that way, I’ve even caught myself acting upon a “messed up” thought just because I was mad or agitated.

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