The Psychology of Trophy Hunting
In my book ‘Trophy Hunting: A Psychological Perspective’ I suggested that we must try to understand the basic psychology underpinning trophy hunting. Here I consider again some of the evidence. What drives trophy hunters? Can we understand the need to engage in trophy hunting from a psychological perspective? Is this a primary or a secondary consideration? Does it have implications for the evolutionary, economic and ethical arguments used by the hunters themselves? Are these arguments merely justifications and rationalisations for a form of behaviour that is primitive and unknown, or does killing large trophy animals follow a ‘natural’ code that really can be effectively argued? I argue in this paper that psychology, and particularly the psychology of personality, does hold the key to understanding trophy hunting and why it continues, and indeed why it flourishes, in this narcissistic age of ours, and ultimately what can be done to combat it.
The killing of Cecil the lion in 2015 resulted in new levels of moral outrage about trophy hunting (see Nelson et al. 2016). The act of paying large sums of money to travel to Africa or similar places to kill certain ‘trophy’ species, particularly the Big Five – lion, elephant, rhino, Cape buffalo and leopard for ‘sport’, and then to display the dead carcass in images which include the (almost invariably smiling) hunter and the means of killing (rifle or crossbow) evokes strong and very powerful emotions. These images evoke strong negative emotions, including anger and puzzlement, in those who oppose trophy hunting, who see it as the shameless display of the cold-blooded, premeditated murder of majestic animals (analogous to serial killing), with devastating implications for the conservation of rare species. But the same images evoke strong positive emotions in those who support it, who view trophy hunting as a great accomplishment, the ultimate test of human skill, bravery and endurance, a natural act, part of the evolutionary cycle, with positive implications (they say) for conservation, in terms of the fees ‘trickling down’ into the local economies to support conservation work. Evidence to the contrary about the ridiculously rigged nature of canned hunting, or the real distribution of profit from trophy hunting, seems to have little effect on their visceral response to these images.
Trophy hunters talk endlessly about the ‘naturalness’ of hunting. In the words of Nils Peterson (2004) ‘According to this concept, humans are predators and hunting is the only way for them to enter nature as a participant rather than a spectator…Thus, hunting is “right” because it is a natural human role’ (Peterson 2004: 311). It is more than natural, according to some who employ this ethical framework, it is actually ‘an honest relationship with nature while most others are deceptive.’ But, of course, many other features of hunter-gatherer societies are also ‘natural’ in that they are common and regular features - they represent the established order, the way things are, like, for example, male patriarchy and the subjugation of women. So the question that some have raised is does this make the ‘naturalness’ argument quite so appealing?
Critics of trophy hunting argue that hunting is immoral not just because it requires intentionally inflicting harm on innocent creatures but also because of what it tells us something about the individuals involved. In a piece in The Conversation, Duclos (2017) calls this ‘the objection from character’ – ‘This argument holds that an act is contemptible not only because of the harm it produces, but because of what it reveals about the actor. Many observers find the derivation of pleasure from hunting to be morally repugnant.’
The false consensus effect
Clearly, there are two very different positions on trophy hunting who have at their core all kinds of psychological assumptions about the ‘other’ – cold-blooded psychopathic killers (the view from some opponents of trophy hunting) versus weak-willed liberals who would not have the strength, courage or ability to test themselves in this way (the view from some trophy hunters about critics of trophy hunting). Both groups may suffer from what has been described as the ‘false consensus error’ by Ross (1977), where people overestimate the relative commonness of their own behaviour, normalise it, and assume that behaviour different from one’s own is more revealing of the underlying dispositional characteristics of the individuals involved. Ross (1977) argued that we might think of ourselves as rational agents and good observers of people, keen on analysis and reflection, but in reality, we are subject to a whole series of biases that impact on what we see, how we interpret it and the conclusions we draw. He concluded that we tend to view our own behaviour as being appropriate in any social situation and see behaviour different from our own as both inappropriate and more indicative of an underlying disposition. We assume that it tells us more about the other person. We also often suffer from a false consensus effect believing that our own behaviour is more common than it really is, and that the majority of people share our world views, our attitudes, our preferences, even our emotional states. For example, Ross reported that people who suffer from depression reckon that 55.1% of people generally suffer from depression (Ross 1977). ‘Put more money into mental health,’ they say, ‘it’s an epidemic.’ Those who do not suffer from depression reckon that only 39.2% suffer from depression. ‘It’s bad,’ they say, ‘but it’s not that bad.’ So where does this false consensus effect come from? Ross argues that we tend to mix with people who share similar views to ourselves, and therefore we don’t sample representative behaviours, beliefs or attitudes to arrive at an accurate conclusion.
You can see how this can operate in the case of trophy hunting with its own sub-culture of publications, magazines, websites, organised trips and conventions, which allow hunters to mix with other people like themselves. The Safari Club International annual hunters’ convention is one of the major gatherings for trophy hunters. The hunters talk about the thrill of the chase, the excitement of the kill, their pride, their momentary sadness after the kill (sometimes), their realistic perspective on the reality of life and evolution, their realism and closeness to nature, their appreciation of beauty in the animal kingdom, their outgoings, their wealth, their courage, their abilities, their know-how, their cunning. There is a real buzz about the place. ‘We test ourselves against nature, we get to know ourselves, we love these animals that we kill in this epic battle. We love these animals [that we kill] better than anyone on the planet.’ The financial costs associated with trophy hunting are staggering; the upper limits astronomical. This is the norm, if you’re there, if you’re one of them; a message of love and manly values (even interestingly with the female hunters), the paradox of killing the thing you love, and fear. But outside this culture, from a little further away, things may look very different. Under the heading ‘Creepiest Festival for Trophy Hunters Is Kicking Off This Week’ (The Dodo, 10.1.2019) the article reads ‘Among the bustling crowd, a trio of lions with snarling teeth stares down at shoppers as they pass by. With eyes glazed over and manes perfectly manicured, the big cats just sit there frozen like statues. Under the bright lights, their huge teeth and giant whiskers shine. Although magnificent, these lions aren’t alive. They were shot dead by a trophy hunter – and now they’re stuffed and up for sale at a creepy convention with dozens of other dead animals who were killed the same way.
Levels of understanding
But what does the actual scientific evidence tell us about the psychology of trophy hunting? The first point to make is that any attempt to answer this question necessarily involves a consideration of human behaviour at a number of different levels. There are published articles in the literature with titles like ‘Why men trophy hunt’ (Darimont, Codding and Hakes 2017), which might appear to offer definitive answers to the question, but they then restrict themselves to only one level of description and explanation. Here, they restrict their argument to the evolutionary level - viewing trophy hunting in the context of the hunting activities and practices of both contemporary hunter-gatherer societies (such as the Meriam people of Australia hunting green turtles or the Maasai of Eastern Africa hunting lions) and the activities and practices of our evolutionary forebears. This is potentially very illuminating but it cannot be the whole story. It may provide an important context for helping us understand the behaviour in question, but may have less to say about why only certain members of our contemporary societies are drawn to it, and why others are repelled by it. Evolutionary models in this domain also put their emphasis on men as hunters of big game (that’s how hunting practice of large game is organised in contemporary hunter-gatherer societies), but when it comes to modern-day trophy hunting, women may be a minority (in statistical terms) but they are a very significant minority, especially in terms of the propagation and advertising of the activity. Consider, for example, Kendall Jones, student, cheerleader, hunter, she is to many the pin-up girl of trophy hunting, a celebrity to her thousands of fans and followers on Facebook, lauded by the hunting lobby. Her interview with Bill McGrath, Legislative Counsel of Safari Club International (SCI), posted in ‘First for Hunters’ in 2014 reads ‘She is a seasoned hunter that has been lucky enough to travel to Africa to hunt the big five; work alongside organizations to provide meat to local communities and help treat wounded animals.’ The text accompanies a beaming and very photogenic Kendall sitting just behind a large lion that she’s just killed with a crossbow. She wears a lot of make-up in the African bush, her left arm sits nonchalantly on the animal’s rear. The crossbow is just in front of the dead animal. She is beaming for the camera. The writer of the piece sees no obvious irony in juxtaposing the comment that she likes to ‘help treat wounded animals’ with the fact that she evidently loves killing fit and healthy animals, as if these two statements can somehow fit together without further explanation or justification. Darimont and his colleagues (2017) have noted ‘given that women in hunter-gatherer societies overwhelmingly target small, predictable prey compared with men (Codding, Bliege Bird and Bird 2011), there are now seemingly puzzling examples of female trophy hunters.’ Evolutionary biologists seem to have little to say about these puzzling examples of female behaviour when it comes to both the killing of large prey, and the resulting visual representations of trophy hunting, but each of these are important facets of the phenomenon. Some females are ardent trophy hunters, and given Kendall Jones’s visibility and presence on social media, this visual (indeed iconic) representation of the attractive female trophy hunter with the dead animal at her feet is a very important element in the spread of its popularity.
The psychological process of how we are able to construct others (or indeed ourselves) using language such as caring about animals and yet, and at the same time, capable of killing them for sport (and indeed proud of it) is also a core consideration for any attempt at a psychological explanation. For example, in their accounts of their own actions, terrorists will often construct themselves as kind-hearted and caring individuals whilst at the same time describing those callous barbaric acts that they have been engaged in (Beattie 2004). Their own self-construction of their positive qualities is often paramount when they talk about what they did in pursuit of this or that political or ideological goal, as is their (explicit or implicit) blaming of the victims (Beattie 1992; 2004). We often find exactly the same thing with trophy hunters.
In order to consider individual differences and psychological needs, we need to consider how trophy hunting operates in a social and interpersonal context, and more specifically how both the processes and results of trophy hunts are represented and displayed in social media and other contexts for other members of the group and for society more generally. This necessarily involves consideration of both the more automatic and non-conscious aspects of behaviour like certain aspects of nonverbal communication (such as types of smiles) when hunters are photographed with their ‘harvest’ (see Beattie 2016), as well as more deliberative and conscious aspects of the arrangement of the images (what is included in the image and what is not, positioning, appearance of dead animal etc.). Thus, any attempt to understand the psychology of trophy hunting necessarily involves some analysis of the semiotics of trophy hunting, and the role of different systems of cognition and communication in this (Kahneman 2011; Beattie 2018). Trophy hunting images are, after all, crystallised and manufactured moments in time which allow our minds to fill in the details of the hunt with admiration and awe. Like luxury cars and designer clothes, some of the rarest and most beautiful animals in the world become lifeless, soulless commodities to personal aggrandisement for certain types of people arranged in a carefully-constructed tableau to emphasis certain aspects of the killing and downplay others. Our attention is drawn to certain features – the smile, the dead animal on the ground, the proud hunter beaming away, there to be envied. The images become the record, the memory, the truth. They allow for this self-aggrandisement of certain kinds of people, and these images do it well. An understanding of the semiotics and communicational value of trophy hunting may give us some insight into the psychological needs satisfied by this activity and this may act as an important bridge to those personality theorists who have attempted to see if there are any unique personality characteristics (or clusters of personality dimensions) linked to trophy hunting.
The ‘Dark Triad’ and trophy hunting
A number of psychologists have indeed argued that individuals with certain types of personality are more likely to be attracted to trophy hunting. The dimensions that have been thought to be critical are those connected with ‘empathy’ and ‘callousness’, and those to do with ‘entitlement’. Indeed, there is some evidence suggesting that those high in narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism (often referred to in the psychological literature as ‘the Dark Triad’, Furnham et al, 2013) may be especially prone to engaging in trophy hunting. Put simply, ‘narcissists have a grandiose sense of self and crave positive attention; Machiavellians manipulate social situations; and psychopaths are callous and lack empathy’ (Meere and Egan 2017). Self-reported Dark Triad ratings are correlated with a number of antisocial behaviours including delinquent and aggression in children, as well as risky and sensation-seeking activities (Crysel, Crosier and Webster 2013). According to Peter Jonason from the University of Western Australia and his colleagues the traits characteristic of the Dark Triad are thought to be associated with a ‘compromised’ or ‘dysfunctional morality’ (Campbell et al. 2009), in that they ‘value “self’ over “other” in a way that violates implicit communal sentiments in people’ (Jonason and Webster 2012).
Evidence collected by Phillip Kavanagh from the University of South Australia and his colleagues suggested that ‘individuals with higher levels of the Dark Triad demonstrated less positive attitudes towards animals and reported engaging in more acts of animal cruelty. These results suggest that those callous and manipulative behaviours and attitudes that have come to be associated with the Dark Triad are not just limited to human-to-human interactions, but are also consistent across other interactions’ (Kavanagh et al. 2013: 666).
Whether results like this have direct implications for the personality of trophy hunters depends, of course, on how you view trophy hunting. If one assumes that you need a ‘less positive attitude’ towards certain species of animal and, in addition, assume that trophy hunting is a (sanctioned) ‘act of animal cruelty’ then it might seem reasonable to infer that these results are relevant to trophy hunters. Trophy hunters themselves, of course, might well beg to differ both on the underlying attitude (one of admiration and ‘love’, they would contend) and on the cruelty of the acts themselves (although the acts may have to be reconstructed through the staging of the post-kill photographs and the reconstructive aspects of human memory). Direct research on the personality characteristics of trophy hunters is still waiting to be carried out, but if you consider each of these dimensions in turn, they would seem to be of some relevance to trophy hunting.
Even a superficial consideration of trophy hunting websites would suggest that narcissism is likely to be a critical and obvious dimension. This is a personality trait ‘associated with an inflated, grandiose self-concept and a lack of intimacy in interpersonal relationships’ (Twenge and Campbell 2009). Narcissists are thought to suffer from ‘extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of their own talents.’ In the most basic language, people who are high on narcissism think that they are better than others in terms of many dimensions, including their looks, their intelligence, their creativity and what they do, but as Twenge and Campbell (2009) have pointed out – they are not. ‘Measured objectively, narcissists are just like everyone else. Nevertheless, narcissists see themselves as fundamentally superior - they are special, entitled, and unique. Narcissists also lack emotionally warm, caring, and loving relationships with other people. This is a main difference between a narcissist and someone merely high in self-esteem: the high self-esteem person who’s not narcissistic values relationships, but the narcissist does not. The result is a fundamentally imbalanced self – a grandiose, inflated self-image and a lack of deep connections to others’ (2009: 19).
Of course, if you see yourself as superior to others but are not actually superior on more objective indicators then how do you maintain this inflated level of self-esteem? The answer is that you must engage in a variety of strategies to maintain and develop your self-image. For example, narcissists have a need to talk about any achievements or accomplishments in their lives to seek affirmation, indeed, wherever possible they need to broadcast them (and social media is the ideal tool for this) to seek the maximum amount of affirmation. They will focus on their physical appearance (amongst other things) but carefully select any images that they present on social media (or anywhere else) regarding their physical appearance. The selfie and photo-shopping are important tools in their lives. They will value material goods especially designer goods that can display and communicate instantly their social status relative to everyone else. In social interaction they will try to make sure that conversations centre on them, and attempt to elicit compliments – changing appearance, clothes etc. are a necessary part of this. In social relationships, narcissists will seek out trophy partners that make them look good. And then again, given that they seem to lack warm and caring relationships, they will often manipulate and exploit other individuals to ensure that they continue to look good, relative to others.
The interesting and pertinent question is to what extent trophy hunting and the display of dead lions, tigers, rhinos etc. at the feet of the hunter can be construed as part of a narcissistic strategy to elevate social status and maintain an inflated concept of self-esteem. It would seem obvious that the postural arrangement of the hunter with respect to the dead animals (especially the Big Five, which includes the King of the Jungle, ‘he’s not called ‘the King’ for nothing! What does that make me buddy?’) is one iconic (and unconsciously understood) signal of elevated status vis-a-vis the animals themselves – these feared beasts with their jaws held open by the hunter are but nothing compared to the fearsomeness and bravery of the hunter. And then again, trophy hunting is extremely expensive - the audience (on social media or wherever) are there to admire the ‘skills’, ‘courage’ and wealth of the hunter. These images are almost certainly designed to maintain a degree of narcissistic flow.
It is quite clear from this list here that showing off, standing out from the crowd and being the focus of attention are core elements of narcissism. Trophy hunting obviously satisfies this aspect of the personality. A sense of entitlement (‘I can live my life any way I want to’), to feel entitled to do whatever you want to in order to achieve this is also key. So again, in the context of trophy hunting, this concept of entitlement with regard to certain species of animals could be a key aspect of the narcissism of trophy hunters.
But some psychologists have suggested that trophy hunting is associated with other personality dimensions as well as narcissism. For example, the forensic psychologist Xanthe Mallett, writing in The Conversation in 2015, suggested a close link between a number of ‘socially aversive’ personality dimensions (namely the Dark Triad) and the hurting of animals. She cites the highly publicised case of Cecil the lion, who was initially only wounded with a crossbow and only finally shot dead two days later before being beheaded and skinned. Mallett reminds us of the fact that intentional hurting of animals is an element in the standard diagnostic test used for diagnosing psychopathy and she writes that ‘Since the 1970s, research has shown that the majority of adults who commit violent crimes have a history of animal cruelty in childhood. Some studies suggest that up to 70% of the most serious and violent offenders in prison have repeated and severe episodes of animal abuse in their history’. She also cites the work of the forensic psychiatrist John MacDonald, who, in a well-known article in 1963 in the American Journal of Psychiatry identified a connection between violence and the three dimensions of personality that constitute the Dark Triad, namely Machiavellianism (a manipulative personality), subclinical or ‘normal’ narcissism (with feelings of grandiosity, entitlement, dominance and superiority as we have seen), and subclinical or ‘normal’ psychopathy (with characteristics such as high impulsivity and thrill-seeking, combined with low empathy and anxiety, see Hare 1985).
Paulhus and Williams (2002) have analysed the relationship between these three personality dimensions in a non-forensic, non-pathological, high-achievement population (a sample of university students). They point out that all three dimensions share a number of important features – ‘To varying degrees, all three entail a socially malevolent character with behaviour tendencies toward self-promotion, emotional coldness, duplicity and aggressiveness’ (Paulhus and Williams, 2002: 557). They also say that in the clinical literature, the connections between the dimensions had been known for some time (Hart and Hare 1998), but newer research was now demonstrating strong degrees of overlap in non-clinical samples as well – particularly between Machiavellianism and psychopathy (Fehr, Samsom and Paulhus 1992), narcissism and psychopathy (Gustafson and Ritzer 1995) and Machiavellianism and narcissism (McHoskey 1995). Paulhus and Williams (2002) tested the inter-relationships of these three personality dimensions in their sample, and also tested their connections with other variables (other measures of personality, intelligence, over-confidence on various cognitive tasks etc.).
They found that all three dimensions were correlated (with the strongest correlation between narcissism and non-clinical psychopathy), and that although the dimensions were related they were not equivalent. The one commonality across the triad was ‘low agreeableness’. There were also significant differences between them – only psychopaths (but not narcissists nor Machiavellians) were low on anxiety, which is consistent with the general clinical view that psychopaths are very low on anxiety (and resistant to punishment). They also found that narcissists and (to a lesser extent) psychopaths exhibited the most self-enhancement in various cognitive tests, whereas Machiavellians showed little sign of this. Machiavellians are, the researchers concluded, more ‘reality-based’ in their sense of self. Narcissists exhibited a strong self-deceptive component (with low insight) to their personality and Paulhus and Williams point out that the grandiosity and poor insight found in narcissists have also been noted in clinical psychopaths (Hart and Hare 1998). They also found that the measure of non-clinical psychopathy was the best predictor of self-report and behavioural measures of antisocial behaviour. Paulhus and Willams concluded that the Dark Triad of personalities are ‘overlapping but distinct’ constructs, each dimension in the triad presenting with its own particular problems.
Kavanagh, Signal and Taylor (2013) analysed the relationship between the Dark Triad and aggression and criminality and point out that ‘animal cruelty’ is a ‘‘red ﬂag’’ indicator for the propensity to engage in violent antisocial behaviours including intimate partner abuse (Volant, Johnson, Gullone and Coleman 2008), intra-familial violence (Khan and Cooke 2008), sexual assault (Simons, Wurtele and Durham 2008), and bullying (Gullone and Robertson, 2008: 667). They tested two hundred and sixty-one participants on standardised measures of psychopathy (the Self-Report Psychopathy Scale-III) an adapted version of the NPI-16 for measuring narcissism and MACH-IV for measuring Machiavellianism. They found (again) that all of the three measures were correlated, so they averaged them to form a composite Dark Triad score with higher scores indicating higher levels of this composite trait. Next they assessed participants’ attitudes towards animals using a 26-item ‘Attitudes Towards the Treatment of Animals Scale’ where participants had to indicate to what extent they were bothered by a variety of acts towards animals, which included ‘intentionally killing a wild animal while hunting’. They also asked about behaviours that the individuals had engaged in, including ‘Have you ever intentionally killed an animal that was owned by yourself or by someone else for no good reason?’ and ‘Have you ever intentionally killed a stray, feral, or wild animal for no good reason?’
Their analysis revealed that less positive attitudes towards animals were associated with higher levels of narcissism, higher levels of Machiavellianism and higher levels of psychopathy. In addition, the composite Dark Triad score was also correlated with attitudes to animals. They also found that higher levels of psychopathy were associated with actual behavioural (and not just attitudinal) measures i.e. ‘having intentionally killed a stray or wild animal for no good reason’ and ‘having intentionally hurt or tortured an animal for the purpose of teasing it or causing pain’. They say their results were unique but not surprising ‘given the typical proﬁle of those high on the Dark Triad’ (Kavanagh, Signal and Taylor, 2013: 668).
What they then attempted to do was to work out what the common element or elements were in terms of these inter-locking personality dimensions. Their conclusion was that ‘Callousness lies at the heart of the “dark core” of the Dark Triad.’ Those who kill animals for no good reason in this way and have a poor attitude to animals do seem to suffer from a degree of callousness generally. Somewhat worryingly, they found that age was also a significant variable with younger people higher on those traits than older people. Jonason, Lyons, Bethell and Ross (2013) have suggested that ‘empathy’, or rather lack of empathy, is another significant feature linking these three dimensions. Empathy plays a major role in the identification of psychopathy, indeed it is one of the two core dimensions. It also feeds into Machiavellianism but it has a more complex relationship with narcissism. Jonason et al. argue that a core route for women when it comes to the Dark Triad might be narcissism rather than psychopathy or Machiavellianism. Indeed, using a complex pictorial analysis of the data they came up with a conclusion which is ‘Moderation tests suggest the link between the Dark Triad and limited empathy might primarily be through narcissism in women but psychopathy in men’ (2013: 574). They say that ‘men who are high on psychopathy and thus have limited empathy may enact a risky lifestyle whereas women who are high on narcissism may enact parasitic relationship styles’ (Jonason and Schmitt 2012). In conclusion callousness and lack of empathy seem to be the key attributes for the Dark Triad; entitlement underpins narcissism which is another key attribute.
It is worth emphasising that Kavanagh et al. did not specifically focus on trophy hunters in their research which is something that the forensic psychologist Mallett does mention as she concludes her commentary piece in The Conversation. She wrote ‘The problem is that understanding why people hunt for pleasure would require in-depth psychological assessments of a large number of hunters against evaluative measures for a whole range of personality traits, before we could try to figure out what people are feeling and what their motivations are.’ In other words, the Kavanagh study produces evidence that certain personality characteristics are associated with animal cruelty but, it is important to note that this research did not focus directly on trophy hunting per se. However, you can see that there is likely to be a close link between these personality dimensions and trophy hunting, given that trophy hunting necessarily involves animal suffering and therefore animal cruelty (despite the reports of the hunters and the numerous trophy hunting images, which suggest in their portrayal of the dead carcasses that most kills are ‘clean’). Unfortunately for them, much of the documentary evidence (and common-sense) suggests that considerable animal suffering is involved. A lack of empathy and a degree of callousness may well facilitate trophy hunting (and may even be necessary conditions for trophy hunting), and trophy hunting and its depiction in images and films may well facilitate the maintenance of narcissistic flow (another necessary condition). This combination of personality characteristic may indeed be lethal – and certainly so for the animal concerned. But as is often the case, there is the proviso that more empirical work in this area is urgently needed, particularly more direct personality research on the trophy hunters themselves.
This research is clearly a move away from the evolutionary perspective, which might suggest that trophy hunting is somehow the way things are and the way things were always meant to be, but the killing of large game cannot easily be explained in terms of food resource for the family, and the propagation of the gene in straightforward evolutionary terms. It was always more than that. Now we have a term for those whose self-identity depends upon the constant admiration of others (narcissism), and now we have ways of measuring callousness and lack of empathy (in the dimensions of non-clinical psychopathy and Machiavellianism). This, you could say, is cultural evolution at work and it looks like we might be getting somewhere in our understanding of the psychology of trophy hunting. Trophy hunting is clearly not for everyone, as they say, the new research on personality outlined here would seem to confirm this.
Psychology may well hold the key to understanding trophy hunting and why it still flourishes, and ultimately what can be done to done about it. Human beings are, after all, capable of self-reflection and can develop insight into their actions, and sometimes that may be enough to promote some degree of change. But this all depends on these other factors that we need to identify, analyse and deconstruct that hold the behaviour in place in the first place, and this process of identification and, it must be said, analysis at multiple levels has really only just begun.
Beattie, G. (1992). We are the People: Journeys Through the Heart of Protestant Ulster. London: Heinemann.
Beattie, G. (2004). Protestant Boy. London: Granta.
Beattie, G. (2016). Rethinking Body Language. How Hand Movements Reveal Hidden Thoughts. London: Routledge.
Beattie, G. (2018). The Conflicted Mind: And Why Psychology Has Failed to Deal with It. London: Routledge.
Beattie, G. (2020) Trophy Hunting: A Psychological Perspective. London: Routledge.
Campbell, J., Schermer, J.A., Villani, V.C., Nguyen, B., Vickers, L. & Vernon, P.A. (2009). A behavioral genetic study of the Dark Triad of personality and moral development. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 12, 132-136.
Codding, B. F., Bliege Bird, R., & Bird, D.W. (2011). Provisioning offspring and others: risk–energy trade-offs and gender differences in hunter–gatherer foraging strategies. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London: Biological Sciences, 278, 2502-2509.
Crysel, L.C., Crosier, B.S. & Webster, G.D. (2013) The Dark Triad and risk behavior. Personality and Individual Differences, 54, 35-40.
Darimont, C.T., Codding, B.F., & Hawkes, K. (2017). Why men trophy hunt. Biology Letters 13.20160909. http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/13/3/20160909
Duclos, J. (2017) Is hunting moral? A philosopher unpacks the question. The Conversation.
Fehr, B., Samson, B., & Paulhus, D. L. (1992). The construct of Machiavellianism: Twenty years later. In C. D. Spielberger, & J. N. Butcher (Eds.), Advances in Personality Assessment (pp. 77-116). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Furnham, A., Richards, S.C. & Paulhus, D.L. (2013) The Dark Triad of personality: A 10-year review. Social and Personality Psychology Compass 7/3, 199-216.
Gullone, E., & Robertson, N. (2008). The relationship between bullying and animal abuse behaviors in adolescents: The importance of witnessing animal abuse. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 29, 371-379.
Gustafson, S. B., & Ritzer, D. R. (1995). The dark side of normal: A psychopathy‐linked pattern called aberrant self‐promotion. European Journal of Personality, 9, 147-183.
Hart, S., & Hare, R. D. (1998). Association between psychopathy and narcissism: Theoretical views and empirical evidence. In E. F. Ronningstam (Ed.), Disorders of Narcissism: Diagnostic, Clinical, and Empirical Implications (pp. 415–436). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press.
Jonason, P. K., Lyons, M., Bethell, E.J., & Ross, R. (2013). Different routes to limited empathy in the sexes: Examining the links between the Dark Triad and empathy. Personality and Individual Differences, 54, 572-576.
Jonason, P. K., & Schmitt, D.P. (2012). What have you done for me lately? Friendship-selection in the shadow of the Dark Triad traits. Evolutionary Psychology, 10, 192 – 199.
Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Kavanagh, P. S., Signal, T.D., & Taylor, N. (2013). The Dark Triad and animal cruelty: Dark personalities, dark attitudes, and dark behaviors. Personality and Individual Differences, 55, 666-670.
Khan, R., & Cooke, D.J. (2008). Risk factors for severe inter-sibling violence: A preliminary study of a youth forensic sample. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 23, 1513-1530.
Macdonald, J. M. (1963). The threat to kill. American Journal of Psychiatry, 120, 125-130.
Mallett, X. (2015). Why we may never understand the reasons people hunt animals as ‘trophies’. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/why-we-may-never-understand-the-reasons-people-hunt-animals-as-trophies-45701. Accessed 6th July 2018.
McHoskey, J. (1995). Narcissism and Machiavellianism. Psychological Reports, 77, 755-759.
Meere, M. & Egan, V. (2017) Everyday sadism, the Dark Triad, personality and disgust sensitivity. Personality and Individual Differences, 112, 157-161.
Nelson, M.P., Bruskotter, J.T., Vucetich, J.A., & Chapron, G. (2016). Emotions and the ethics of consequence in conservation decisions: Lessons from Cecil the Lion. Conservation Letters, 9, 302-306.
Paulhus, D. L., & Williams, K. M. (2002). The dark triad of personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Journal of Research in Personality, 36, 556-563.
Peterson, N. (2004). An approach for demonstrating the social legitimacy of hunting. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 32, 310-321.
Ross, L. (1977). The intuitive psychologist and his shortcomings: Distortions in the attribution process. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (pp.173–220). New York: Academic Press.
Simons, D. A., Wurtele, S.K., & Durham, R.L. (2008). Developmental experiences of child sexual abusers and rapists. Child Abuse & Neglect, 32, 549-560.
Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, K.W. (2009). The Narcissism Epidemic. Living in the Age of Entitlement. Atria: New York.
Volant, A. M., Johnson, J. A., Gullone, E., & Coleman, G.J. (2008). The relationship between domestic violence and animal abuse: An Australian study. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 23, 1277-1295.
Photo by Clara Hatton-Beattie