New research provides evidence that the willingness hurt others to advance oneself is the dominant feature that characterizes those with heightened levels of Dark Triad traits. The new findings appear in the journal Current Psychology.
The Dark Triad refers to three interconnected maladaptive personality traits: Machiavellianism, which is characterized by manipulative tendencies, a lack of morality, and a cynical view of human nature; narcissism, which is characterized by an exaggerated sense of importance and entitlement; and psychopathy, which is characterized by callousness, impulsivity, and antisocial behavior.
“There is an ongoing debate about what the Dark Core is, i.e., the main and central element of all dark or socially toxic traits,” explained Bojana M. Dinić, an associate psychology professor at the University of Novi Sad and the lead author of the new study. “There were several proposed cores among basic and pathological personality traits as well as among specific features of dark traits.”
“Among basic personality traits, the main candidates are Honesty-Humility, aggressiveness, selfishness, and Antagonism as pathological traits. Among dark traits features, the main candidates are primary psychopathy and narcissistic rivalry.”
The researchers had 268 Serbian adults between the ages 20 and 45 complete a battery of scientific assessments of both light and dark personality traits. Dinić and her colleagues then conducted a network analysis and used other statistical techniques to detect the central variables within the collected data.
“Results showed that in a network that contains all proposed cores and a broad range of dark and light traits, there is no one central element, but rather a several that equally contribute to the Dark Core — primary psychopathy, callousness, pathological selfishness, Machiavellianism, and narcissistic rivalry,” Dinić told PsyPost.
Antagonism appeared to be the best candidate for the Dark Core. “All these central features had clearly antagonistic content,” Dinić said. Antagonism, which is characterized by hurting others for self-advancement, was measured via the Personality Inventory for DSM-5.
Callousness, one of the three facets of Antagonism, “outperformed all others proposed cores,” Dinić noted. “Some of the indicators of callousness are: untroubled if other people suffer because of me or if they are hurt, willingness to step over people to get what you want, uninterested in other people’s feelings or problems, lack of guilt, etc.”
“Moreover, the combination of Antagonism facets — callousness, deceitfulness, and grandiosity — shared 92% similarity with dark traits and it could be seen as the Antagonistic Triad or alternative Dark Triad (callousness as psychopathy, deceitfulness as Machiavellianism, and grandiosity as narcissism).”
Another study, published in Personality and Individual Differences, also found that Antagonism (as measured via The Short Form of the Five-Factor Narcissism Inventory) played a central role in the Dark Triad.
However, “the centrality of one trait does not imply that dark traits should be subsumed under that trait, but rather that it is the dominant trait among broader dark traits constellation,” Dinić explained.
The sample size also limited the ability of the researchers to test some differences between the centrality of the personality concepts. “We believe that the set of proposed central elements would be smaller in a larger sample,” Dinić said.
The study, “The good, the bad, and the ugly: Revisiting the Dark Core“, was authored by Bojana M. Dinić, Anja Wertag, Valentina Sokolovska, and Aleksandar Tomašević