Dark triad personalities: characteristics

The dark triad is a psychological theory of personality, first published by Delray L. Paulus and Kevin M. Williams in 2002. According to that three types of personality including Narcissism Personality, Machiavellianism Personality, and Psychopathy Personality these are called “Dark Triad”. These are characterized by manipulative, callous and self centered behavior. These traits can lead to negative consequences for both the individual themselves and others around them.

 Many researchers consider psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism three distinct traits with overlapping characteristics, others believe the commonalities suggest an underlying personality construct that has yet to be fully understood. Recently, researchers have begun to hypothesize that a single core factor—classified as “D”—may underlie many different negative traits, including those in the Dark Triad as well as sadism, entitlement, and others. “D” denotes a tendency to maximize one’s own desires at the expense of other people’s. This article describes the Dark Triad deeply and helps to understanding their definition, characteristics, impact and causes.



Narcissism personality trait is comes from the Greek mythology, named Narcissism. Narcissistic Personality is characterized by self centeredness, lack of empathy and an exaggerated sense of self importance. The tendency of extremely self absorbed, intolerant of others perspectives, insensitive to others needs. Individual servers in Narcissism crave admiration, have grandiose, fantasies and believe that they are superior to others. Narcissists are merely frustrating, extreme or “malignant” narcissists can become emotionally abusive or even violent when they aren’t given the special treatment they believe is deserved.

dark triad


Machiavellianism is originates from Niccolò Machiavelli an Italian politician and diplomat. It is characterized by manipulation, self interest, lack of emotion, superficial charm, amorality, cunning, deceit, pragmatism, calculating nature and absence of morality. Machiavellian individuals priorities power, status, and personal gain over relationships, ethics and morality. They are highly manipulative and are willing to ruthlessly deceive others to obtain what they desire while having a genuinely cynical view of the world.

The philosophy is inspired by Niccolo Machiavelli’s political writings particularly his book “The Prince”  which described effective but controversial methods for rulers to maintain power.


The term “Psychopath” is more common in everyday media and culture, however, let us make the definition clear. Psychopathy are characterized by impulsivity, lack of responsibility, pathological lying, callousness, lack of empathy, superficial charm, manipulation, manic behavior, lack of realistic goals, promiscuous sexual behavior, practice lifestyle and grandiose behavior generally cause more harm to individuals and to society than do narcissists or “High Mach’s.” “Psychopath” is not a mental health diagnosis; the disorder that most closely represents it in the DSM is antisocial personality disorder.

Characteristics of Dark Triad

Here are some common and harmful characteristics of Dark Triad


  • Sense of entitlement
  • Arrogance
  • Lack of empathy
  • Need for admiration
  • Requiring constant validation
  • Grandiosity
  • Exploitative behavior


  • Manipulation
  • Strategic planner or thinker
  • Lack of empathy and remorse
  • Superficial
  • Self interested
  • Disrespect of ethics
  • Calculating nature
  • Charm offensive
  • Amorality
  • Self centredness


  • Lack of empathy
  • Irresponsible
  • Exploitative behavior
  • Lack of concern for others
  • Callousness
  • Impulsivity
  • Manic behavior
  • Pathological lying
  • Grandiose behavior
  • Parasitic lifestyle

Measuring the Dark Triad

Measuring the Dark Triad traits can be done through various psychological assessments and inventories. Here are some common methods:

Measuring the Dark Triad
  • Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI)  was developed by Reskin and Hall in1979. It contains 40-item questionnaire that assesses narcissistic tendencies, such as grandiosity, entitlement, and self-importance. Each pair select the one that reflects the personality. It takes five to ten minutes to complete.
  • Machiavellianism Scale (MACH)Machiavellianism, developed by Dr Conal Monaghan, Dr Boris Bizumic, Dr Todd Williams, and Dr Martin Sellbom (2020). It consist of 20-item questionnaire that evaluates manipulative behavior, cynicism, and lack of empathy. Score will be calculated using classical theory.
  • Psychopathy Checklist (PCL)  was originally developed in the 1970s by Canadian psychologist Robert D. Hare profile by American psychiatrist Hervey M. Cleckley first published in 1941. A 20-item assessment that measures psychopathic traits, such as lack of empathy, impulsivity, and antisocial behavior. In psychometric terms, the current version of the checklist has two factors (sets of related scores) that correlate about 0.5 with each other, with Factor One being closer to Cleckley’s original personality concept than Factor Two. Hare’s checklist does not incorporate the “positive adjustment features” that Cleckley did.
  •  Dark Triad Inventory (DTI): Jones and Paulhus have developed the DTI. This is interactive version of the Short Dark Triad (SD-3), which measures the three traits of Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy. It contains 27-item questionnaire that simultaneously assesses narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy.

Impact and Consequences

  • Individuals with dark triad struggling for healthy relationship. There self centered behavior leads to distract, conflicts and emotional harms to family, partner, and friends.
  • In professional settings, the dark triad manifest in various ways. The individual with dark triad engage in office politics, create toxics work environment through bulling, seek constant validation, dominate discussion, unethical practices and manipulation colleagues. These behaviors leads to reduce moral, decrease productivity and increased turnover.
  • Engaging in illegal activities fraud or manipulation can result in legal consequences.
  • Dark Traid lead to anxiety, emotional stress, depression, stress low self esteem and physical issues.
  • The Dark Triad trait can contribute to a culture of manipulation exploitation, and dishonest, undermining social cohesion and trust.
  • On a boarder scale the presence of Dark Triad trait in influential position can lead to corrupt practices erosion of trust.

Implications for Mental Health and Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral techniques are often effective to help individuals change destruction thinking and behavior pattern. By focusing on altering dysfunctional thought’s pattern and behavior, therapist can help individuals to develop more adaptive coping strategies and reduce harmful behavior.

Individual psychotherapy

Individual psychotherapy can be effectively used to treat although the process can be difficult or time consuming. It is important to note that people with this disorder rarely seek out treatment. Indian often being therapy at the urging of family and friends can be difficult because clients are unwilling to acknowledge the disorder.

Pharmacological Interventions

In some cases medicine are used to address in specific symptoms associated with the Dark Triad trait such as impulsivity and aggression. However this approach is typically used in conjunction with other therapeutic strategies rather than as a standalone treatment.


The Dark Triad trait represents a fascinating yet troubling aspects of human personality. These traits can confer certain advantages in specific contexts, their overall impact on individuals and society is predominantly negative. Understanding the characteristics and consequences of the Dark Triad is crucial for mitigating it’s harmful effects and promoting healthier more ethical behavior in both personal and professional settings.

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