The "Dark Triad" of Personality
April 15, 2021 4:58 PM   Subscribe

The 2002 publication of The Dark Triad of Personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy introduced a new, definitive taxonomy of "socially aversive" or "dark" personality traits common to all people. The idea of a "Dark Triad" was well-met and provocative, spawning hundreds of research papers in the ensuing decade, as summarized in The Dark Triad of Personality: A 10 Year Review. See for yourself how you measure up when it comes to narcissism, machiavellianism, and psychopathy via the Dark Triad Personality Test as well as The Dirty Dozen: A Concise Measure of the Dark Triad
posted by BadgerDoctor (43 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think there's a problem with that personality test, because I went through it and then it said it had some "additional survey questions" to ask me before I could see my results, and then I got a crapton of questions about trash bags and when I tried to skip that I couldn't get it to tell me how I scored.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:21 PM on April 15 [14 favorites]


Came in to say the same. Seems like “the research” also involves an advertising poll.
posted by ashbury at 5:31 PM on April 15 [5 favorites]


I had the same issue with the survey questions. I thought that was a really good way to illustrate the dark triad in action! I reloaded and answered the survey questions randomly. Anyway, they give you a percentile for each of the traits. One of the few tests I’ve been happy to score low on
posted by Emmy Noether at 5:34 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


I bet the value of marketing data from people taking a test on the dark triad is a lot less than from people researching cars or pregnancy
posted by Emmy Noether at 5:36 PM on April 15 [10 favorites]


I scored low overall but marginally higher on Machiavellianism, which is probably why I reported that I have never heard of any of the above hair products. What is this "shampoo" you speak of?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 5:43 PM on April 15 [6 favorites]


One of the few tests I’ve been happy to score low on

Mmmm-hmmm... [nods slowly]
posted by CynicalKnight at 5:55 PM on April 15 [5 favorites]


My score came out as "Adult who occasionally wears a hoodie from Hot Topic." How did it know???
posted by betweenthebars at 5:59 PM on April 15 [9 favorites]


I got through the test without incident (maybe my adblocker protected me?) but when it gave me my results it also warned, "Be prudent about sharing your results, the dark triad traits are loaded subjects."

But since I scored fairly high on narcissism, I'm doing it anyway! 62nd percentile for narcissism, 84th percentile for Machiavellianism, but only 9th percentile for psychopathy, so I guess I'm just a dark dyad.

Looking forward to digging into the papers a bit.
posted by merriment at 6:15 PM on April 15 [7 favorites]


Little confused on the wording of the percentile, but if this were my GPA I'd be failing with a 1.6? I'll never become master of darkness at this rate.
posted by GoblinHoney at 6:32 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


I took the opposing test to this, the so-called light triad which predicted that I would probably score low on the dark triad scale. It was right, my highest score was in the 4th percentile for narcissism probably because I "have leadership skills" (I can't help that people put me in charge and think I'm responsible, OK!) and answered accordingly.
posted by fiercekitten at 6:34 PM on April 15


I scored pretty low on narcissism and psycopathy but weirdly kind of high on Machiavellianism. Do I blame twenty years in the advertising business or forty years of existing in a matriarchal southern family? Both?
posted by thivaia at 6:50 PM on April 15 [10 favorites]


I did the test linked to in the BBC article and it scored me lower than average on both the light and the dark triads. But skewed more towards the light. So neutral good, I guess?
posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 6:52 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


Wish they hadn't called it the Dark Triad; it sounds too cool. I've seen Dark Enlightenment types claim they scored high on this. They should have called it the Douche Triad.

I am a creampuff, but I scored surprisingly high on Machiavellianism. Is it bad to try to read people's emotions and figure out how best to ask them do things for everybody's sake? Huh. You try to be nice.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:18 PM on April 15 [14 favorites]


On the one hand, I scored low on the dark triad measures. On the other hand, I intentionally fed their marketing research random garbage.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 7:29 PM on April 15 [6 favorites]


Well, I gave the test the answers I felt it expected and it gave me the clean bill of health I deserved.
I feel pretty good about myself now.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 7:34 PM on April 15 [7 favorites]


The attached marketing surveys will finally help establish which men’s shaving brand is preferred by psychopaths.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:38 PM on April 15 [8 favorites]


I wonder if it's difficult to score really low on Machiavellianism if you're old and burnt out. No particular reason why, just wondering.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:09 PM on April 15 [6 favorites]


"it's not wise to tell your secrets"?
how can the answer to this be anything other than strongly agree, insofar as they cease to be either yours or secrets the moment you tell them.
"avoid direct conflict with others because they may be useful in the future" is kind of a "have you stopped beating your wife" question.
"you should wait for the right time to get back at people." when else would you do it?

i was surprised how high my machiavellian score was (but also fed the commercial survey nonsense -- why don't you ask me about my attitude toward perfume (it is "no! no! god, no!"), rather than probe my awareness of brands), and how low my psychopathy.
also was surprised how high my kantianism score was on the bbc-linked light triad test, which did not seem quite as rigorous (how would you grade president t[nope], how would you regulate guns, are you liberal or conservative???) as the dark triad (though i don't mean to imply the latter's rigor).

did these traits exist before machiavelli and kant came along?

overall, there doesn't seem to be a lot of room in this implied psychological space for suspicious loners who nevertheless aspire to be honest and civil and minimize harm.
posted by 20 year lurk at 8:09 PM on April 15 [8 favorites]


My survey asked super-detailed questions about men’s bodywash. I’m neither a man nor clean. I started wondering if my disdainful reactions were somehow part of the test. I’m still uncertain.
posted by mochapickle at 8:12 PM on April 15 [7 favorites]


I was asked about eggs.
posted by judgement day at 8:33 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


I didn't get any marketing survey on the dark triad personality test link. Maybe it's my uBlock Origin extension. My results were roughly as I expected, but I also think I know a bit about what answers will push the scores either way, and it's not wise to tell your secrets, or so I've read, so I'll never tell my results.... I think you need to be around the 0.000001%ile on all of these traits to be completely honest on an unexpected internet marketing survey.
posted by sillyman at 8:37 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


I didn’t get any marketing questions— it asked sex and age range and then I got my results. Am I too old to be marketed to? I feel robbed!
posted by DiscourseMarker at 8:37 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


I had an adblocker one and wasn't asked.

Despite being willing to agree with the suspiciously worded questions, I ended up scoring pretty low. For some reason I'm in the 1% percentile for psychopathy, which doesn't seem right, or maybe you lot are way more heartless than me, and I don't know what it says about the test that I'm willing to believe that of you all.
posted by Merus at 8:39 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


I got half-way thru the survey and then stopped because I felt that a psychopath designed the survey.

It reminded me of the false dilemma of the classic Scientology survey: 1) you're too aggressive; 2) you're too passive; 3) you can't make up your mind;

I'm also one of those people who thinks Niccolo Machiavelli got a bad rep. Much of what he actually said was basic common sense about dealing with responsibilites, but taken out of context by some commentators.
posted by ovvl at 9:25 PM on April 15 [7 favorites]


i was surprised how high my machiavellian score was

Same. I blame agreeing strongly with propositions that people can be manipulated and the wisdom of not telling secrets to other people.

Which, for fuck's sake. Of course we can be manipulated. It's self-evident. If we couldn't, there wouldn't be an advertising industry. And as for secrets: if you tell them to people they aren't fucking secrets, they're just information.

Or are these positions that only a truly machiavellian personality would hold? Inquiring minds must know.
posted by flabdablet at 9:32 PM on April 15 [7 favorites]


The attached marketing surveys will finally help establish which men’s shaving brand is preferred by psychopaths.

Seems a lot of work when I could just ask my boss.
posted by pompomtom at 9:33 PM on April 15 [14 favorites]


I didn't get any marketing survey on the dark triad personality test link. Maybe it's my uBlock Origin extension.

I also run that extension as a matter of course, probably due to my psychopathically machiavellian unwillingness to reveal secrets to marketing bots, and my browser also skipped the survey. It said it was going to inflict one on me, but then went straight to the results page instead.

Yet again, I fail to understand how anybody actually chooses to browse the modern Web without an ad blocker running. Pretty sure ad blocker presence counts as an implicit personality test for masochistic traits.
posted by flabdablet at 9:37 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


I'll never become master of darkness at this rate.

If at first you don't succeed, lie, lie again?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:58 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


I love downloads, I love downloads with no label. oh look, borgias!
posted by clavdivs at 11:41 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


They say Machiavellian like it's a bad thing.
posted by Pouteria at 11:50 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


Pouteria: Machiavelli was a champion of secular government, republicanism, balanced government, and an empirical approach to evaluating political motives and calculations.
Machiavellian only became an epithet because of the counter-reformation, which despised him for arguing that religion was an ultimately human institution and undertaking.

Were the adjective true to the man, machiavellian would mean: "progressive but empirical with a keenly realistic approach", not "manipulative and power-hungry".

Machiavelli's main point wasn't that deceit, treachery, and factionalism were desirable, but rather, that they will always be with us- they will always be factors in the political process that must be appreciated.

Anyways, sorry for the thread derail.
posted by LeRoienJaune at 12:35 AM on April 16 [21 favorites]


Wish they hadn't called it the Dark Triad; it sounds too cool. I've seen Dark Enlightenment types claim they scored high on this. They should have called it the Douche Triad.

Hard agree, I think that wording adds a bit of entirely undeserved Darkness Dementia Raven Way glamour that fails to do justice to the whole banality of evil of it all.

I won't take the test but I suspect I would also score some points on the Machiavellian dimension. It's easy enough to see his points when you read him as descriptive rather than prescriptive. Also, I like to view myself as a pragmatist, although it might very well just be a cover for an unbecoming propensity towards opportunism.

Alas, we can't call that spade a spade; there's no way to make opportunism sound in any way edgy or thrilling, because all it takes is usually a bit of moral flexibility/lack of spine and principles, but that's what it mostly boils down to.

There may be some intelligence involved in spotting opportunities and exploiting them most effectively (as exploiting one opportunity now can often mean forgoing another later; the risk/reward calculation can be a bit tricky), but all these tests measure is a _willingness_ to exploit opportunities, not how good people actually are at it. Nothing more pathetic than a little wannabe-Machiavelli, who fancies himself a master manipulator, when all he's really exploiting is people's lack of systemic/institutional power to call out his bullshit.
posted by sohalt at 12:45 AM on April 16 [3 favorites]


Well, I didn't get the results until I let them set a cookie, so.

It struck me that if that's representative of the psychology industry, it's fundamentally fucked, for a number of reasons. At the very least the fact that one has to pay them in exchange for a spurious set of definitions one can apply to oneself, which does seem to describe a lot of that industry.

That one scores points the more one supposedly displays the characteristics; that it's common for people to want to score more points if they are available; that people will want to be a part of any world they're introduced to. In short, that the set-up of the test motivates people to want to be found to have these characteristics. This is, surely, problematic?
posted by Grangousier at 12:53 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


I'm on the page for the test, but I don't see a link to start the actual test. Does that mean I failed the test?

-Edit- never mind. My browser made the start button teeny teeny tiny.
posted by UltraMorgnus at 2:49 AM on April 16


LeRoienJaune

No apology needed. I agree with you. Machiavelli is a much misunderstood and unfairly maligned figure. He spoke more sense about politics than most ever have, up to the present day.
posted by Pouteria at 4:23 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


I never can figure out some of these statements. Like, for "I know I am special because everybody keeps telling me so" -- If I disagree, does that mean I'm saying that I don't think I'm special? Or that maybe I do and maybe I don't, but nobody's telling me I'm special regardless? Those seem like very different things. So I keep hitting Neutral over and over.
posted by JanetLand at 5:44 AM on April 16 [6 favorites]


i suspect i'm being manipulated because everybody keeps telling me i'm special.
posted by 20 year lurk at 7:05 AM on April 16 [4 favorites]


I scored low on the dark triad test, then scored low again on the light triad test. Perhaps it's because I don't feel it's all bunnies and rainbows OR a complete horror show 24/7? Or maybe not enough coffee.
posted by evilDoug at 7:59 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


If you know you are special, but not because everyone keeps telling you so, then I'd say that's a "no".
posted by thelonius at 10:37 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


I never can figure out some of these statements. Like, for "I know I am special because everybody keeps telling me so" -- If I disagree, does that mean I'm saying that I don't think I'm special? Or that maybe I do and maybe I don't, but nobody's telling me I'm special regardless? Those seem like very different things. So I keep hitting Neutral over and over.

The best of Metafilter beanplating!

It's also how I usually end up with analysis paralysis and decide not to make any decisions.
posted by cynical pinnacle at 11:36 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


Hmm okay I'll bite. One of my hobbies is being opinionated on psychometric instruments.

Ran through the SD3. The original paper with which the SD3 is associated is:
Introducing the Short Dark Triad (SD3): A Brief Measure of Dark Personality Traits by Daniel N. Jones, Delroy L. Paulhus. It was published in Assessments--a decently well-respected journal--in 2014. This makes it not actually news, other than that Paulhus revisited the topic recently.

I did not read the original paper, because Unpaywall didn't have a free link, and the instrument... it wasn't that good. But skimming the update, it was almost cynical in what it cited to describe common clinical practice. For instance, it refers to the "typical" use of the Five Factor Model via the NEO-PI as a diagnostic method. So, I pulled my trusty NEO-PI manuals off the shelf to see what they said about that. The current version of the Professional Manual does, indeed, devote 3 entire pages to a cursory overview of how a clinician might use the instrument to support a clinical conclusion that aligns with the DSM-III-R. But notably, of the "Dark Triad" the only personality disorder of the three that the publishers offer a correlate to is Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Also, I could imagine someone using, say, the Hare or the MMPI for this sort of diagnostic, but the NEO-PI is a weird choice, I can't imagine why someone would use it, but they give a page to it and HEXACO. If I assume (as I will, because I don't plan to pay to find out) that the original paper was equally loose with its interpretation of the literature, that's not very promising.

The SD3 appears to use items (that's the questions) sourced from the IPIP which is a public domain bank of standardized items for personality instruments. This has become a very popular method by which grad students construct instruments, and it has had some notably cool results. I don't think I'd count the SD3 among them, though. My one beef with the IPIP is that folks will often use a Likert scale (scale of 1-5 from affirmative to negative) rather than true/false. As you can see from reactions above, that tends to cause the subject to want to read into the question, and to get a valid result, usually you want a snap reaction. If you're trying to parse words, we're not really testing your subconscious anymore, are we?

The main thing that bothers me about the SD3 is that the questions have a very high face validity. That is, when you read the item, you have a reasonably good idea how answering the item will affect your scores. That happens a lot when you make these personality-in-27-items instruments: in order to get there faster, you use items that are really highly correlated and ignore the bias that face validity adds to the mix.

For instance, a famous item from one instrument is, "I like tall women." For the life of me, I've used this example for years to illustrate funny, low-face validity items in instruments, but I can never remember what scales it correlates to. That's a good item.

By comparison, a number of people mentioned the SD3's use of the item, "It's not wise to tell your secrets." And, funnily enough, I didn't see a single person who said, "I disagreed with this." Well, I disagree (2) with it. My snap reaction to the item is, you're only as sick as your secrets, so it's probably wise to tell them. Well, that's not true... my snap reaction is, "SECRETS BAD." But here's the thing... now that you know my reaction and other reactions, even if you weren't able parse the item before, it's really obvious what the function of the item is: whether people who might engage in anti-social activities (i.e., everybody sometimes) have an innate belief that the remedy is self-reveal as a pro-social counterpoint. You can tell, right away, this item drives a pro-sociality adjustment to the scales. Not a great decision on the designer's part.

I guess the other thing that snagged me is, it put me at the 15th percentile on both Narcissism and Machiavellianism and the 14th on Psychopathy. But on the Hare, which the authors cite as a point of validation, I score a 24 which is in the non-pathological but above normal range for Psychopathy. So unless I'm a weird outlier (I'm not), their scales don't line up very consistently, and my gut tells me their math is wrong.

My conclusion is, they wanted something easy like the Beck's Depression to be able to give in a clinical (therapy) session to quickly assess whether the therapist's impressions of a patient were likely to lead to a firm diagnosis of one or more of these three personality disorders. But reading their paper, they never got there. They don't show any clinical use. No field results. No case histories. Like many instrument authors, they discovered a bunch of mathematical correlates that were numerically fascinating and supportive of the fancy polygon-shaped diagram they proposed but lacked an appropriate real-world use.

Which shouldn't surprise anyone since the ten-year update starts, "How many kinds of bad characters are there?" What clinician, in their right mind, would use an instrument where at least one of the original authors was willing to attach their name to that sentence? C'mon.

Anyway, that one was fun! Has anyone seen any neat and well-done new instruments lately?
posted by kochbeck at 5:35 PM on April 16 [5 favorites]


Narcissism/1.9/17th%ile
Narcissism is an egotistical preoccupation with self.

Machiavellianism/2.1/23rd%ile
Machiavellianism is a tendency to be manipulative and deceitful.

Psychopathy/1.9/17th%ile
Psychopathy reflects shallow emotional responses.

I dunno, you tell me, is that normal enough?

My daughter scored way lower than me on all of these, I'm so proud!
posted by Xoebe at 8:10 PM on April 16


My snap reaction to the item is, you're only as sick as your secrets, so it's probably wise to tell them.

If being completely unwilling to disclose my email account password is a sickness, it's one I'm quite content to live with.
posted by flabdablet at 11:14 PM on April 16 [3 favorites]


« Older Big Tech’s guide to talking about AI ethics   |   Big Lurch - Normal Lurch - The Marriage... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments