Dark Personality Traits and Anger in Cyber Aggression Perpetration: Is Moral Disengagement to Blame?


A number of dark personality traits (e.g., psychopathy and sadism) have been shown to predict cyber aggression perpetration among emerging adults; however, trait anger and moral disengagement, both useful in understanding other forms of aggression, have not typically been included in these models. The present study tested a model in which dark personality traits and trait anger were expected to predict cyber aggression perpetration and moral disengagement was expected to partially mediate these relationships. Emerging adult volunteers (N = 404; 41% men, 59% women) between 18 and 29 (M = 25.16, SD = 2.76) recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk completed an online survey assessing the variables of interest. Structural equation modeling showed that sadism (β = 0.450, p <.001), psychopathy (β = 0.118, p <.035), and anger (β = 0.099, p <.007) predicted cyber aggression perpetration when taking respondent sex and college enrollment into account, indicating a small effect for anger and psychopathy and a medium effect for sadism. Moral disengagement partially mediated these relationships (24.11% for sadism, 37.23% for psychopathy, and 29.79% for anger). Both trait anger and moral disengagement may be useful in preventing cyber aggression and informing the development of clinical interventions for perpetrators (e.g., anger management, moral reasoning training, improving distress tolerance). This study adds to the literature on personality traits and cyber aggression among emerging adults.

Publication Title

Psychology of Popular Media