Dark triads sound like a horror film but it is a mix of three malevolent personality traits. The term dark triad refers to three negative distinct but similar personality traits- narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy.
Traditionally these three traits have been excessively studied under the clinical population. Paulhus and Williams 2002 paper coined the term and showed that all these traits were in a continuum. Each of us possesses a lit bit of narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy.
Narcissism- The word narcissism comes from a character from Greek mythology Narcissus a hunter who fell in love with his reflection. People who are narcissistic feel enlightenment, grandiosity, dominance, and superiority. They have an inflated sense of their importance. Extreme self-importance is to such an extent that others' needs are ignored. They score high on extroversion and openness and low on agreeableness. DSM-5 and ICD-11 both identify narcissism as a disorder under the name Narcissistic personality disorder.
Machiavellianism- Named after the philosophy of Niccolò Machiavelli, the author of the book The Prince. It is a personality trait that denotes cunningness and the ability to duplicate. People scoring high on this trait are cold, lack morality, and are motivated by self-interest. Interpersonal manipulation is their source of success. They tend to focus on their ambitions, prioritize money over relationships, are decisive, and lack principles and values. They score low on agreeableness and conscientiousness.
Psychopathy- They score low on empathy and high on impulsivity and thrill-seeking. Callousness, detachment, and lack of empathy enable Psychopaths to manipulate. Psychopaths show characteristics like glibness, grandiose sense of self, pathological liars, manipulative, lack guilt, lack empathy, impulsive and irresponsibility. DSM-5 and ICD-11 both identify psychopathy under the name Anti-social personality disorder.
Dark triads have a positive correlation with being young, being a male, having immature defenses, selflessness, and religious immorality. People with these traits would practically do anything to get their way not feeling any remorse about harming others. Centre to all these traits is an obsession with self and disregard for others. They tend to be assertive and courageous.
Kaufman, Yaden, Hyde, and Tsukayama in their 2019 research at Colombia University came up with the term light Triad. They wanted to put light on the good in people who they felt were being neglected. The term light triad refers to three distinct but similar personality traits- Kantianism, humanism, and faith in humanity. It hinges on the idea that people are inherently good. Light triads aren’t merely the opposite of dark triads. The negative correlation between the two is fairly moderate.
Kantianism- Is about treating people as ends unto themselves, not mere means. In simpler words, it means they aren’t out to use or manipulate people. People high on Kantianism prefer honest over charm, are authentic and in conversations rarely talk about what they want. It is based upon the philosophy of Immanuel Kant.
Humanism – It is about valuing the dignity and worth of each individual. People high on humanism admire others, celebrate others success and enjoy being around people from all walks of life.
Faith in humanity- it is believing in the fundamental goodness of humans. It is the tendency to see people as good and noble. People who have faith in humanity forgive people who have hurt them.
Light triads are correlated with being old, feminine, higher level of religiosity and empathy. Light triad is not about self but about one's attitude for others. High scorers on these traits are intellectual, securely attached, tolerant, show humanity and agreeable. People who are high on these traits are actually the saints in our mind-sets. Dr Kaufman believes the light triad capture love as an attitude rather than just an emotion.
An average person in their everyday pattern of thoughts, behaviour and emotions is tipped more towards light than the dark. One of the biggest misconceptions about personality is that it is permanent. It isn’t some mysterious aspect that lurks deep inside you, it’s the way you behave. The world is full of shreds of evidence that everything changes. So can you. Every 7 years every single one of the cells in your body has already been replaced. If you want to change you can.
There is at least a little bit of dark and light in all of us. Yes, psychopaths exist but so do saints. Those who score high on the dark triad aren’t a spate human species but rather a magnified and unleashed version of the person living inside all of us.
“I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”
– Anne Frank