Dale Hartley, Manipulation, and other Psychological Musings

Dr. Dale Hartley is a professor and chair of humanities, fine arts, and social sciences at West Virginia University.

I had a blast manipulating Dr. Dale Hartley into being interviewed by me! The lifelong educator, currently stationed at West Virginia University, is the author of Machiavellians: Gulling the Rubes. In this book and some fascinating articles he has written, including “Meet the Machiavellians” and “Games Master Manipulators Play: Sandbagging”, he discusses the characteristics of Machiavellianism. This term describes the manipulative behaviors of a master manipulator, a Machiavellian.

*Before jumping into the interview, some background. Machiavellianism is part of a group of personality traits dubbed “the Dark Triad” by psychologists. It also includes psychopathy and narcissism. I ask Hartley about how these personality traits manifest in day to day life, as you will read below.


What are some courses you teach at West Virginia University?

General Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Human Development, Leadership.  I also have an MBA and have taught Marketing, Advertising, Consumer Behavior, and Business Ethics at other schools.

What are your favorite topics to teach?

 Anything having to do with people behaving badly — which occurs often enough in Marketing Advertising, Business Ethics, and Leadership.  I think it’s much more interesting to study people behaving badly than people who are behaving themselves.  Besides which, they provide great cautionary case studies.

Have you ever encountered students with personality disorders or traits of the personalities of the Dark Triad?

Encountering people with personality disorders or Dark Triad traits is an every day hazard for all of us, whether we recognize them as such or not.  Maladaptive individuals are not uncommon, so the answer is yes.

Are Machiavellians and the other personalities of the Dark Triad capable of recognizing their disorder/negative attributes?

Some have a good deal of insight into their personality problems.  Others have a limited or distorted perception of their maladaptive traits. Still others are in denial, don’t care, or lack insight.  As with you, me, or anyone else, the degree of insight, reflection, and self-awareness will vary.

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527); this political philosopher wrote, “A prince never lacks good reasons to break his promise”.

In “Meet the Machiavellians”, you say Machiavellians get less attention than psychopaths and narcissists. Why do you think that is?

 There could be several reasons, including the fact that psychopaths and narcissists are familiar “types” to us through movies, TV, and fiction.  Machiavellianism, to the extent that people think about it, tends to be associated with politics and power, since those were Machiavelli’s focus in The Prince.  However, Machiavelli recommended that leaders adopt ruthless, duplicitous behavior as a premeditated choice.  In other words, they wouldn’t normally behave that way.  When psychologists refer to “Machiavellians,” we mean people whose default setting is treachery and deceit.  They don’t need the instruction manual.  So there’s this confusion out there between political and psychological Machiavellianism.

In “Games Master Manipulators Play: Sandbagging”, you describe sandbagging as a reliable tactic. Would you consider yourself an advocate for its use?

 It’s a reliable tactic for those who choose to use it, because it’s both effective and hard to spot.  I am not an advocate of using Machiavellian tactics, but I think their use may be justified if necessary for self-defensive purposes or when used as a force for good (e.g., pretending to be angrier than you are about a child’s disobedient act so that the child will think twice about disobeying next time).

Fallingwater, one of the most famous homes in the U.S., had a lot of psychology influencing its design, as Hartley discusses in “Fallingwater: Where Design, Structure, & Psychology Converge”.

You wrote an article on Fallingwater and the psychology of its design. Besides architecture, what kinds of fields does psychology often influence?

 I could make a shorter list if you asked which fields psychology doesn’t influence.  Here are some fields from which psychology cannot be separated:  advertising, marketing, architecture, medicine, law, social work, education, military, art, music, technology, communication, linguistics, human resources, philosophy, transportation…….

Dale Hartley, PhD, teaches across the spectrum of psychology, although most of his writing focuses on Machiavellianism.With a PhD in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, an MBA, and an MA in Mass Communication, Hartley was CEO for Lionhart Group, Ltd., which worked to provide training programs to soldiers in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. He is currently a professor and chair of humanities, fine arts, and social sciences at West Virginia University.

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  1. Reading this article sparked an interest in me, and now I’d like to study and research it more. Is Machiavellianism something you found an interest in within the realm of psychology? Also, if you know of any good resources for learning more about Machiavellianism, please send them my way. P.S. I’d never heard of the term “The Dark Triad” before(somehow), so that’ll be a fun thing to toss out around my friends and family.

    1. Hey, thanks for reading! Yeah, I didnt’ know anything about Machiavellianism until I read Hartley’s articles on psychologytoday.com and it’s fascinating. I don’t know of any other resources, but I’m sure Hartley’s book is a great place to start!

  2. The Walking Dead is full of Machivillian maneuvers. This article discusses the difference between innate vs adopting Machivillian behaviour.
    An interesting article about a lesser known psychology trait.


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