Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Those Machiavellian economics and business students...

Back in March I wrote a post about some research on Dutch students' personality traits by academic major, showing that (among other results):
Extraverted students are more likely to choose to study law, or business and economics, and avoid science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
A recent paper by Anna Vedel and Dorthe Thomsen (both Aarhus University), and published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences (sorry I don't see an ungated version), looks at a similar question for Danish students. This new paper looks not only at the Big Five personality traits (extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness, and conscientiousness), but also at the Dark Triad (Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy), using a sample of 487 incoming Danish university students. They find that:
Male students scored significantly higher on all Dark Triad traits than female students, female students scored significantly higher on neuroticism, agreeableness, and conscientiousness than male students, and non-significant results were found for extraversion and openness. There was a significant effect of academic major for all personality traits except from extraversion and psychopathy...
Economics/business students scored significantly higher on Machiavellianism than all others and significantly higher on narcissism than both psychology and political science students... Psychology students scored significantly higher on neuroticism than economics/business and political science students... They also scored higher than economics/business and law students on both agreeableness and openness... Political science students scored significantly higher on openness and agreeableness than economics/business and law students... both political science and law students scored significantly higher on neuroticism than economics/business students.
In terms of the size of the differences, the largest differences were between economics/business students and psychology students, especially in terms of Machiavellianism. At least there weren't any significant differences in psychopathy. Although many more female students choose psychology than male students, the difference in Machiavellianism was consistent across both genders. According to Wikipedia, Machiavellianism is associated with grandiosity, pride, egotism, and lack of empathy. Maybe it's confirmation bias, but to me that doesn't seem too far from the mark for many business people.

A bit of comfort for university business and economics lecturers should come from these results, since they suggest that, at least in Danish universities, economics and business faculty aren't teaching our students to be Machiavellian, they already are!

Read more:

[HT: Marginal Revolution, back in April]

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