Spite — which the study defines as the willingness to inflict self harm in order to harm another — is difficult to measure.
“'Most personality constructs are on a continuum,' said Zeigler-Hill. 'That also applies to spite such that some people are very spiteful and others are not very spiteful at all.'”
The study introduces a self-report Spitefulness Scale that was tested on 946 college students and cross-validated on a national sample of 297 adults. The items from the Spitefulness Scale are presented below. The extent to which you agree with these items may give you an idea of whether your spitefulness is above, below, or about average.
The findings of the research suggest that spitefulness may be an important personality construct, said Zeigler-Hill, who co-authored the study with David K. Marcus and Alyssa L. Norris of Washington State University, and Sterett H. Mercer of University of British Columbia.
People who scored above average on the Spitefulness Scale were:
less inclined to avoid harming others when making decisions
less likely to understand the reasoning behind another’s actions that might cause the spiteful behavior
more likely to be male
more likely to be young vs. older
There was also a positive correlation with aggression, psychopathy, Machiavellianism, narcissism, and guilt-free shame and a negative correlation with self-esteem, guilt-proneness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.
So what’s the best approach to dealing with a spiteful person? “Treat them fairly,” Zeigler-Hill says.
Instructions: Indicate how much you agree with each of the statements IN GENERAL by selecting the appropriate response.
Please choose a response for each item using the rating scales provided below.