Bypassing Empathy: A Machiavellian Theory of Mind and Sneaky Power
Being good at discerning what another person needs doesn’t mean that you will necessarily meet those needs. No personality style illustrates this more powerfully than the Machiavellian, where empathy is either lacking or bypassed. In such a person, skill in mapping the intentional states of others, that is, having a good theory of mind (ToM), is a basis for the exercise of sneaky power. Lacking, it seems, moment-to-moment sensitivity to the affective states of another, more cognitive processes seem to suffice. The Machiavellian (Mach) worldview targets the human weaknesses and lack of insight that leave others open to tactical manipulation. It seems that the Mach worldview does a stand-in for the online reading of others’ affective states, suggesting that one does not need to use affective processes to discern affective processes in another. The Mach’s tactics set up a power imbalance, restricting the others awareness of relevant facts and cues, intensifying motivational and emotional states, playing on or priming normatively held false beliefs the Mach does not share. The gap between the Mach’s worldview and that normatively held by others gives her a darkly charismatic edge. The person whose mind is read may be manipulated against her best interests.