Dark personality traits and psychological need frustration explain future levels of student satisfaction, engagement, and performance

David J. Hughes, James W. Adie, Ioannis K. Kratsiotis, Kimberley J. Bartholomew, Roy Bhakta, John Martindale

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Grounded in Self-Determination Theory (SDT), we integrate personality traits and basic psychological need frustration to explore relationships between students' ‘dark’ personality traits and the core student outcomes of satisfaction, engagement, and performance. Using time-separated, multi-source data (N = 330), we examined whether students' perceived need frustration mediated the effects of dark triad traits (i.e., Psychopathy, Machiavellianism, Narcissism) and the dark core (i.e., the common variance among the dark triad) upon student outcomes. Correlations and structural equation models showed that need frustration is related to reduced student satisfaction and engagement (though not grades), and partially mediated the effects of the dark traits. The dark traits also had a significant indirect effect on grades via student engagement. The dark core was positively associated with a heightened sense of need frustration and lower engagement, suggesting that common antagonistic features of dark traits lead students to see university environments as obstructive. However, the constituent dark traits showed differential associations: Psychopathy correlated positively with need frustration, whereas Narcissism correlated negatively. The results demonstrate the theoretical and explanatory utility of integrating personality traits and SDT-based constructs for understanding how individuals experience their environments.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102273
JournalLearning and Individual Differences
Early online date13 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023

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