Machiavellian meaning


  1. cunning, scheming, and unscrupulous, especially in politics or in advancing one’s career.
    synonyms:devious, cunning, crafty, artful, wily, sly, scheming, treacherous, two-faced, Janus-faced, tricky, double-dealing, unscrupulous, deceitful, dishonest.
    antonyms:straightforward, ingenuous
  2. of or relating to Niccolò Machiavelli.
  1. a person who schemes in a Machiavellian way.

Machiavellianism refers to the extent that an individual sees the world around them as something that should be manipulated for their own personal gain.

Machiavellianism is characterized by a manipulative interpersonal style and willingness to exploit others. Machiavellianism is a personality trait associated with cynicism,and distrust. Machiavellian men and women commonly develop relationships that are emotionally detached and are often reluctant to establish committed intimate relationship.

Are people who cheat on their spouse high in Machiavellianism? Is Machiavellianism a strong indicator of a persons probability of cheating in their marriage?

The answer is yes. You will find Machiavellians in long term relationships. People who are high in Machiavellianism may remain faithful in a marriage for many years, but then as conditions in the marriage change, a person high in Machiavellianism will believe they deserve whatever they choose, and will not feel guilty about deceiving their spouse. More commonly you would find Machiavellians have a history of cheating, and do not believe in monogamy (though they would never say this in public.)

The Infidelity Recovery Institute has found Machiavellian personality traits commonly in the Entitlement Affair Type & the Philanderer Affair Types. Those who are high in Machiavellianism interpret their relationships as an opportunity for personal gain.

Many partners of Machiavellians do not want to hear or know the truth; they want to be lulled to sleep by fantasy delusions. Machiavellians that thrive on taking power and having control over others, are master manipulators of telling people lies based on what they want to hear or believe.

This is the tough part. We have to ask if we are able to seek the honest factual truth of behavioral interactions or have people feed us lies that are flattering or comfortable for our wounded ego parts.

Otherwise we reinforce the delusion in the person/circumstance and we become enablers, allowing them to continue to perpetrate deceptions in the relationship through their own self-deception. Promoting and enabling delusions leads to pathological thinking and spreads a fabricated reality through “false impressions”. This false impression is the spin on perceptions that are designed to serve the agenda of the ego, narcissistic or psychopath.

High Machiavellians consider lying an acceptable behavior and are highly likely to engage in deception when they would directly benefit from the act. Conversely, low Machiavellians consider the act of lying to be deviant and unacceptable in almost all circumstances. People high in Machiavellianism are able to effectively lie with little cognitive effort when compared to their low Machiavellian counterparts who tend to be less effective at lying and find it mentally taxing.

The concept of Machiavellianism is based on the writings of political philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli. In his book The Prince (1532), Machiavelli outlined a philosophical treatise endorsing actions taken by those attempting to gain and maintain power using immoral and dubious means as well as endorsing activities that ensure success in political actions. Drawing from Machiavelli’s work, Christie and Geis were instrumental in bringing the concept of Machiavellianism into the social sciences by developing the Mach IV personality inventory (1970).

Would you like to assess your level of machiavellianism?

Try this free 3-in-1 online test to assess 3 areas of your personality. It is called the Dark Triad

  1. Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) was used as the measure of narcissism,
  2. MACH-IV for machiavellianism
  3. the Self-Report Psychopathy Scale (SRP) for psychopathy.

Note: This link will take you to an external page

So what does the Dark Triad consist of?

Narcissism: characterised by grandiosity, entitlement, dominance and superiority. The scale largely used to measure this trait is the Narcissistic Personality Inventory.

Psychopathy: characterised by high levels of impulsivity and thrill-seeking along with low levels of empathy. It has been described as the most ‘malevolent’ of the Dark Triad.  The scale which is largely used in the literature to measure Psychopathy is the Self-Report Psychopathy (SRP) scale, version III forthcoming. It was modelled on the Psychopathy Check List, which is largely seen as the ‘‘gold standard’’ for the measurement of forensic Psychopathy.

Machiavellianism: characterised as being cynical, unprincipled and using manipulation of others for self-gain and life success. The scale which is most used to measure this construct is the Mach IV (Christie & Geis, 1970).

A Narcissist, a Psychopath and a Machiavellian Walk into a Bar…

The bartender asks, ‘who has the darkest personality out of you three?’ The Narcissist says ‘me’, the Psychopath says, ‘I don’t care’ and the Mach says ‘it’s whoever I want it to be’.


Read more about lying

Recommended Professional Books on Machiavellianism:

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