People with psychopathic and sadistic traits are more likely to have an interest in fire and setting fires, according to a group of psychologists from the Medical School Hamburg and Humboldt University of Berlin.

What to know:

  • There is a connection between an interest in fire and setting fires and the Dark Tetrad personality traits which include narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and sadism.

  • Individuals who exhibit Dark Tetrad traits tend to be manipulative, callous, and selfish, lacking empathy with a disregard for other people’s feelings, and they take pleasure in causing pain.

  • Physical or direct sadists enjoy inflicting cruelty, while vicarious sadists enjoy watching cruelty and both play into sadists’ interest in fire and fire setting.

  • Watching a fire may satisfy a vicarious sadist’s needs, whereas the act of setting the fire is less important. This is different from pyromania, which is an extreme form of fire interest and fire setting and is a rarely diagnosed impulse control disorder.

  • Those with Dark Tetrad personality traits are also more likely to engage in criminal behavior.

This is a summary of the article “Bringing Light Into the Dark: Associations of Fire Interest and Fire Setting With the Dark Tetrad,” published by Frontiers in Psychology on November 17, 2022. The full article can be found at Frontiers.

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