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The Three “Dark Personality” in Psychology

When we think about personality traits most of us would gravitate towards the most common and well known traits that is widely accepted to make up the whole personality of a person; These are the openness to experiences, conscientiousness or a sense of responsibility and organization, extroversion and introversion also known as the social butterfly and the loner, agreeableness or the warmth and kindness, and lastly is the neuroticism or the worrywart.

However, recent researches have revealed that there are an additional, darker side of the personality called the Dark Triad of Psychology. It is a collection of overlapping personality traits of narcissism, machiavellianism and psychopathy. These three traits considered undesirable and dangerous on their own to whoever possesses them. When combined, it can be used as a socially exploitative strategy that can be used to advance their status in life. People who possess these three traits hold vast amounts of personal power and interpersonal social dynamics usually found in politicians and criminals. More often than not, anyone who possess the dark triad will exploit others for their own personal gain.


The most common facet of the Dark Triad is narcissism. This is a highly internalized, deeply rooted sense of superiority among other people simply because they exist. This manifests as a strong sense of confidence and charisma that is extremely useful when it comes to business. Narcissistic people are boastful and arrogant. They are hypersensitive to criticism, selfish and possess no sense of empathy.


Considered as the core of the Dark Triad personality. This is an extremely dangerous trait as it enables the person who possesses it to see every social situation as a tactical decision that they can manipulate and maneuver. They do not see a person as a living human, only as pawns with skills that is a means to their end. Machiavellian people subject their victims to emotional confusion that would lead to dependence. This way, they can control their victim by emotionally manipulating them to their whims. Machiavellians are also masters of duplicity or faking their own importance to attract their victims. They have an extreme sense of self interest and they lack emotions and sense of morality.


In the context of the Dark Triad, psychopathy is an individual’s inability to feel guilt or remorse. Their behavior shows no aversion to doing any negative or harmful behavior since they lack the sense of empathy, unable to feel guilt or remorse. While some people may suppress their emotions to stoicism, psychopathy is the neurological inability to literally feel too little or nothing at all, hence nothing to suppress. This creates a feeling of fearlessness, enabling them to do anything they want without fear of repercussions. Psychopathic people are extremely unpredictable and volatile.

Dark triad individuals are extremely powerful and unstable individuals. They are a danger to themselves and the society. They do not care for others just as long as they get what they want, and they have no fear of doing whatever it takes to do so. Even if they are self-aware of the negative traits and behavior they possess, they do not have any desires to change. Instead, they try their hardest to conceal their negative sides which manifests as their overinflated sense of confidence and promiscuity, that they can do what they want. They manipulate people, merely using them as pawns or instruments to their gain and they feel no remorse whatsoever in harming anyone they come across.

Recent researches have added sadism as part of the triad, making it a tetrad of negative traits. However, most psychologist argue that sadism, or the pleasure of seeing or causing harm and suffering is tightly imbued in machiavellianism and psychopathy to ever be presented as a separate trait.

Dark Triad people will not change, rather they can never be changed due to the neurological and developmental cause of psychopathy. While the Dark Triad had been emulated by some successfully to an extent, they still have to deal with the emotional and moral repercussions of their actions.

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Paulhus, D. L.; Williams, K.M. (2002). “The Dark Triad of Personality”. Journal of Research in Personality
Robert M. Regoli; John D. Hewitt; Matt DeLisi (20 April 2011). Delinquency in Society: The Essentials. Jones & Bartlett Learning
W. Keith Campbell; Joshua D. Miller (7 July 2011). The Handbook of Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Theoretical Approaches, Empirical Findings, and Treatments. John Wiley & Sons
Paulhus, D.L. (2014). Toward a taxonomy of dark personalities. Current Directions in Psychological Science,
Understanding The Dark Triad – A General Overview

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Written by Khole

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My name is Khole. I mainly focus on Human Relations, Clinical and Abnormal Psychology as well as Psychological Research. My perspective is a combination of Psychodynamic, Humanistic and Gestalt.

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The Three “Dark Personality” in Psychology