Are You On The Dark Triad? The Three Personality Traits That Predict Evil

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It’s impossible to fully know every person we come across, though some who have a love for the dramatic certainly want to. Imagine knowing everyone’s secrets, everyone’s life story, their deepest desires, and their darkest motivations immediately upon meeting. How many disasters would you be able to avoid with that power?

Seeing that dark traits might be more common than we think, it would certainly be a useful tool, as you’d be able to pick out those who find themselves on the psychiatric phenomenon that is the dark triad.

Learn more about your zodiac sign and how the dark triad might manifest in your life with your own zodiac reading. We’re each on our own unique path and what some struggle with this season, might not be applicable to you too.

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Coming Together

It’s likely that you’ve heard terms like narcissism and psychopathy before, but did you know that they’re part of a larger trio of traits that create what’s known as the “dark triad?”

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Unsplash / Ricardo Gomez Angel
Unsplash / Ricardo Gomez Angel

It’s a spooky name, but it’s fitting, as the dark triad highlights a frightening mix of three personality traits that, should someone possess more than one, often interact with one another in evil ways.

The studies that have been performed on this triangle of evil have opened many eyes to the darker parts of society and how those who fall within this triad behave.

A Deep Dive

As mentioned, the dark triad consists of narcissism and psychopathy, then the third trait, Machiavellianism.

Matinee71 / Wikimedia Commons
Matinee71 / Wikimedia Commons

The term was coined by two researchers, Delroy Paulhus, and Kevin Williams, in a 2002 paper published in the Journal of Research in Personality.

Since then, research about this phenomenon exploded, especially in the mid-2010s. People were fascinated by these traits that, while each holding unique features, also had a ton of overlap, and how high levels in each corner could accurately predict criminal behavior.

Sorry, Not Sorry

Psychotherapist Paul Hokemeyer, PhD, spoke to Health about who this dark triad encapsulates, saying, “Central to these types is a person’s disregard for others and an obsession with self. They lack compassion, empathy, and a moral compass.”

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Many of the studies recorded proved that those with dark triad traits have a higher willingness to exploit others while also not feeling sorry for any wrongdoings. They also have a penchant for lying and bouts of aggression.

Let’s cover each of the traits of the dark triad so that we know what we’re analyzing here.

Dark Triad Trait 1: Narcissism

Narcissism might be the most ‘household’ trait among the three, so to speak. It’s the most commonly known, commonly discussed, and easily identifiable among the three. It’s also gained popularity online in the past few years as more people begin to detect narcissists in their own lives.

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To be narcissistic is to feel like you’re better than others no matter what. It’s a sense of superiority or entitlement, like the world and everyone on it owes you everything just for being alive.

However, under the surface of that heightened sense of self-worth, there’s usually a layer of insecurity. As awful as narcissism is, it is often a defense mechanism above all else.

Dark Triad Trait 2: Psychopathy

You’re more likely to have heard about psychopathy in movies and TV shows than you are in your own life experiences, but it’s also a trait that’s relatively known. On a surface level, it’s extremely complex when looked at closely.

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Notable traits among those who experience psychopathy are low empathy and low emotional capacity (they might feel cold or appear stone-faced). They’re also very impulsive, seemingly unable to understand the potential consequences of the risks they wish to take, or maybe not caring about those negative outcomes.

Dark Triad Trait 3: Machiavellianism

Machiavellianism is the least common among the three, but it’s relatively simple to understand in comparison, as all it means is being manipulative.

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Now, we’ve all lied a little bit to get our way here and there over our lives, but those who embody Machiavellianism are deceitful to their core. They are genuinely willing to say whatever it takes to get them further in whatever their goal is, no matter the size of the lie or the impact on other people.

They also have a characteristically cynical view of the world, which plays into their lack of guilt.

Close, But Not Quite

It’s tough to know how common a high concentration of these traits actually is among the general population as it’s not diagnosable. There are things that sound similar, such as narcissistic personality disorder, but they wouldn’t be classified the same way.

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“It’s a bit hard to know exactly how many people fit this description since technically it isn’t an official diagnosis in the DSM-5, our ‘psychiatric bible,'” Thomas G. Plante, PhD, told Health. “The closest we have to this diagnosis is antisocial personality disorder.”

Can You Identify Someone With Dark Triad Traits?

Technically yes, but it can be rather tough. Hokemeyer says the challenge is because “they’re charismatic and charming.”

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“They’re masters at flattery and making a person feel like they’re special and fortunate to be in the presence of a person of elevated taste, intelligence, and compassion.”

However, that mask cannot last forever. “They eventually burn out relationships by exploiting the people with whom they become close,” he continued.

In fact, there are four behaviors that can signal whether or not someone is masking dark triad traits.

How To Tell

They are as follows: an inability to sustain long-term relationships, a history of portraying themselves as a ‘victim’ in life, inconsistencies in their stories, and a chronic desire to feel fulfilled.

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These types of people will always be chasing something bigger and better, something that’s further down the road of ‘success’ they’ve created in their heads. They want to see how much they can get away with, so they’ll do whatever they feel it takes to reach those new highs. Nothing matters enough to them to be worth sticking around for, especially once something new catches their eye.

Best Leave It Be

Hokemeyer even suggests that having any type of relationship with someone in the dark triad is a bad idea. “It’s dangerous to be in any kind of relationship, be it a friendship, an intimate affair, or a business association, with someone with a dark triad personality profile. These individuals are hardwired to exploit and will proceed to do so, regardless of how much you want them to change.”

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Unsplash / Ryan Jacobson
Unsplash / Ryan Jacobson

Could they, one day, change their ways? Sure, but Hokemeyer doesn’t suggest banking on it. “The personality traits that make up a dark triad are deeply ingrained in their psyche and highly resistant to any sort of challenge that would manifest a change. The best strategy is to move away from them as quickly as possible.”

All Around Us

It’s here that we should stop to think on one of the initial findings when that first paper regarding the dark triad was published: we all display some aspects of the dark triad in ourselves.

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Unsplash / Mauro Mora
Unsplash / Mauro Mora

Plante suggests that while dark triad traits aren’t diagnoseable, they do appear to be observably common, a fact that was mirrored in the first ever study regarding these personality types.

He even suggests that they’re “reinforced in our culture, too.”

Our Own Authority

It’s easy to judge bad people, and I’m not saying that those who fall within the dark triad should be absolved of any sin just because they’re potential victims of our culture.

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Unsplash / Priscilla Du Preez
Unsplash / Priscilla Du Preez

Instead, the knowledge that these traits are rather common should be a reminder that we all have darkness within us. We all have the potential to do bad, awful, downright evil things. A simple sliver of one of the three tips of the triangle can develop into an embodiment of all three traits should we let the world poison us enough.

We all have the capacity for cruelty, but more importantly, we all have the capacity for kindness. Here’s hoping that every day from here on out, we all continue to choose the latter.

Daniel Mitchell-Benoit

Dan is a content writer with three years of experience under their belt, having mostly covered viral media but now shifting toward spirituality and astrology. He’s a strong believer in using one’s beliefs as a means of self-improvement and being in touch with whatever messages the universe has to offer.

He can’t wait to share his insights with a[…]