Image: Illimitable Men 2013

The Dark Triad is a concept within the realm of psychology which focuses on three socially undesirable traits, namely narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy.  The three personality traits are closely related yet they all have a somewhat malevolent connotation (Open Source Psychometrics Project 2011). Researchers are finding that the Dark Triad underlies a host of undesirable behaviours including aggressiveness, sexual opportunism and the exploitation of others. It can therefore be logically assumed that people who score highly on possessing these traits are more likely to commit crimes, cause social distress and create severe problems for society on the whole.

However, when dealing with the Dark Triad it is important to understand and bear in mind that narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy materialize far more frequently amongst individuals that one may originally consider. Such traits are normally distributed throughout the human population- with each individual acquiring some level of each trait, be it to a low, medium or high degree. So, although such traits are often linked to undesirable or anti-social behaviours, they are also often associated with alluring demeanours such as charm, superior negotiating, influential skills and a strong sense of ambition (Strycharczyk 2017). These qualities are often seen as attractive attributes within recruitment and development activity, which is why it proves difficult to identify those who are tainted by high levels of the Dark Triad (Strycharczyk 2017).

The dark triad has traditionally been assessed by three different tests, each having been coined independently of one another. The Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) is used as the measure for narcissism, which embodies an excessive self-love. The MACH-IV is utilized for the identification of Machiavellianism, which encompasses a manipulative attitude and a facile social charm. Whilst the Self-Report Psychopathy Scale (SRP) is relied upon for an indication of psychopathy, a trait commonly associated with serial killers and has long been associated with a lack of empathy along with high levels of impulsivity. When all three traits are compiled together, an almost inevitable outcome is a knack for exploiting others (Shpancer, 2017), which undoubtedly has eminent potential to miff those affected, and the community at large.




Image: 2017.

The Dark Triad ideology was originally formed in 2002 by Delroy Paulhus and Kevin Williams, as a direct response to proposals put forward by a band of psychologists claiming that narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy were interchangeable amongst normal samples (Paulhus, Williams 2002). Since then, there has been an exponential increase of interest in the dark side of humanity which unsurprisingly has generated a stable interest in the Dark Triad. The Dark Triad is thus a concept within psychology that is constantly being built upon, for example in 2010, professors of psychology at the University of Florida developed the theory of the ‘Dirty Dozen’ rating scale, a concise twelve-item measure of the Dark Triads components (Jonason, Webster 2010) which was designed to trim down the total length of time involved in the original assessment period. Today the dark triad is utilized by the police, courts, in psychiatric wards and even in some big corporations as a personality inventory, in the hope of one day successfully identifying the causal factors and predispositions that can lead individuals to the life of crime, and thus improve the quality of life for all.

(545 words)


ILLIMITABLE MEN, 2013. Understanding the Dark Triad- A General Overview. [online]. Available from: [Accessed 13/12/17].

GUOGUIYAN, 2017. Evil Wallpapers. Available from: [Accessed 16/12/17].

JONASON, P.K. and WEBSTER, G.D., 2010. The dirty dozen: a concise measure of the dark triad. Psychological Assessment. 22 (2) pp. 420-432.

OPEN SOURCE PSYCHOMETRICS PROJECT, 2011. The Short Dark Triad, a measure of the “dark triad” of personality. [online]. Available from: [Accessed 14/12/17].

PAULHUS, D.L. and WILLIAMS, K.M., 2002. The Dark Triad of Personality. Journal of Research in Personality. 36, pp. 556-563.

SHPANCER, N., 2017. Confused About Successful Jerks? Get to Know the Dark Triad. [online]. Sussex: Psychology Today. Available from: [Accessed 14/12/17].

STRYCHARCZYK, D., 2017. The Dark Triad and Mental Toughness. [online]. Wrexham: AQR International. Available from: [Accessed 13/12/17].









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