Psychologists have long been interested in understanding the personality traits that promote socially unwelcome or offensive behavior.
One of the more well-known constellations of negative personality traits is known as the “Dark Triad.” According to researchers, the Dark Triad is composed of three groups of socially offensive personality traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy (defined below).
- Narcissism refers to someone who is self-obsessed and believes that they are special, gifted, and superior to others.
- Machiavellianism refers to someone who is manipulative, tricky, and ingratiating.
- Psychopathy describes people who are dangerously risk-seeking and lack empathy for others.
Interestingly, a growing body of research suggests that a fourth dimension — called sadism — should be added to the Dark Triad. According to new research published in the European Journal of Psychological Assessment, sadism “satisfies the criteria of “callousness or impaired empathy” while also adding a “unique element not covered by the Dark Triad members, namely, intrinsic pleasure in hurting others.”
It’s one thing to define a new personality structure, but measuring it is another thing altogether. To this end, a team of psychologists led by Delroy Paulhus of the University of British Columbia in Canada developed a 28-item scale to measure the personality traits of narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and sadism. Here is what they came up with. (Note that all statements are responded to on a 5-point, strongly disagree to strongly agree, scale.)
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