FOCUS • 30. November 2022

Personality traits in organized crime groups: the results of one interesting study

Recently, I came across a study carried out by researchers at Aarhus University that focused on the personality traits of members of organised crime groups in Denmark.

Share post
Adera Executive Search Blog 11

I wrote a few years ago about an interesting study that compared the personality traits of  successful entrepreneurs and paid managers of large corporations. Recently, however, I came across  a  study carried out by  researchers at Aarhus University that focused on the personality traits of members of  organised crime groups in Denmark.

Although the sample was  quite small (53 members),  I found   the  findings intriguing.  It should be said that  the members  were not ordinary street fighters, petty crooks or kleptomaniacs, but members of groups with  authority in the criminal world.

This  time, too, three Hogan tests were used to map personality traits. The  Hogan Personality Inventory (HPI) assesses personal  strengths, Hogan Development Survey (HDS) personal risks, and  Motivations, Values, Preferences Inventory (MVPI) motivational sources and preferences.   Today,  millions of managers and professionals from    very different fields of activity have completed  Hogan’s tests  in the world, in Estonia we have been able to evaluate both  recruitment and manager development programs  over a thousand  managers, top managers and professionals.


So what  were the  findings, and to what extent do they  overlap with  stereotypical notions from Hollywood mafia movies?

First of all, it should be understood that criminal groups offer their members the same benefits as any other collective: social identity, group affiliation,  etc.  Interestingly, for example, similarities have  been found between criminal groups  and politically extreme groups.   Both offer so-called career and  self-realization opportunities, meanings and a sense of belonging to a   certain profile that they may not find anywhere else.   The test results should be interpreted taking into account the context.

In  terms of their motivational sources and  values profile (MVPI),  the members of the  sample were quite similar to middle managers or,  for example, venture capitalists, receiving high scores  in  hedonism, money, power and security    scales. To be clear: for them, status, material benefits, pleasures,  and   the  certainty and predictability of   receiving these benefits  in the  future are  important.

Sample members’ personal risk profiles (HDS) highlighted  some interesting findings. Hogan suggested that  some of the otherwise unproductive qualities in  ordinary life can be very productive in the criminal world. The members received high scores on the scale  of skepticism, which measures distrust and cynical attitudes towards other people. Surprisingly, high scores  also came on the  scale of perfectionism, which   evaluates an orientation to detail and exactingness to the performance of  oneself and others.   Also  on the colorful scale, which refers to the desire to  stand out from others and to receive the attention and admiration of members.   As expected, the  members of the  sample were also  characterized by high loyalty to the leader of the group.

The MVPI and HDS scores suggest that  the study   participants seem  to have  innate expectations of career success, but at the same time have not chosen conventional and accepted options for their realization. This Hogan thought is supported by the  rather low scores of the respondents’ HPI test (the scale average remained significantly below 50%). Hogan interprets the situation this way:  members of the criminogenic group are alienated from  generally accepted social roles and rules,   while still wanting to partake  of the benefits and resources that ordinary professional life allows – money, power, sensory experiences.   One of the interesting indicators in the  HPI profile was also  the  low interest of the sample members in education and self-improvement. At  the same time, this is   again one of the prerequisites for succeeding in society.

Finally, Hogan emphasizes that human beings are social animals and  that we have  three great goals in life:  to find meanings and goals   in life, to be  accepted by others, but at the same time to strive for a certain   towards status  and  to achieve something in life.  People satisfy these needs mainly through various groups: family and friendship groups, organizations, hobby groups, political associations, etc. For many adolescents from poorer social  groups,  joining criminogenic groups is  like a  rational choice. However, paradoxically, “career success”  in such a combination can  require quite similar skills as in some large and successful publicly traded companies.


Since  2010, Adera Executive Search has been using Hogan’s tests  in leadership evaluation and development.  To date, about 10 million working adults worldwide have  taken Hogan tests.  How many exciting (and also surprising) discoveries such  a  global dataset has  offered!  If you are interested in personality psychology and would like to receive news on this topic, come and register


FOCUS is the name  under which  we gathered the services, tools, as well as  news, findings and discoveries  related to the  topic of  evaluation & development of  managers and professionals.   We believe that  comparable, objective and relevant information about candidates is needed to make successful eligibility decisions.  The right  person for the right position!  We can  help if you need help evaluating candidates,  mapping their potential or leadership skills.    Whether  it’s making managerial choices, promotion decisions,  or key employee development programs. With FOCUS, everything important is  in focus!

Share post
Interesting reading

The primary purpose of emails we send are to share industry-related news, thoughts and observations about management.