W.E. van den Berg
- Theory of mind and empathic explanations of Machiavellianism: a neuroscience perspective
- Journal of Management
- Volume | Issue number
- 39 | 7
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB)
- Amsterdam Business School Research Institute (ABS-RI)
We study theory of mind (ToM) and empathic underpinnings of Machiavellianism by use of functional magnetic resonance imaging, where account managers are used as participants in 3 studies. Study 1 finds evidence for activation of the medial prefrontal cortex, left and right temporo-parietal junction, and left and right precuneus regions; all five regions are negatively correlated with Machiavellianism, suggesting that Machiavellians are less facile than non-Machiavellians with ToM skills. Study 2 presents evidence for activation of the left and right pars opercularis, left and right insula, and left precuneus regions; the former four regions of the motor neuron system were positively associated, and the latter negatively associated, with Machiavellianism, implying that Machiavellians resonate more readily with the emotions of others than non-Machiavellians. This is the first study to our knowledge to show a negative correlation between perspective taking and emotional sharing in empathic processes in general and Machiavellianism in particular. Study 3 tests implications of managerial control on both performance and organizational citizenship behaviors, as moderated by Machiavellianism in the field. Our study grounds the functioning of Machiavellianism in organizations in basic neuroscience processes, resolves some long-standing ambiguities with self-report investigations, and points to conditions under which Machiavellianism both inhibits and promotes performance and citizenship behavior.
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