While we’ve all been sleeping free of worry and comfortably under our sheets, psychologists have been searching under our beds for any monsters that may be lurking there. They have been trying to pull these monsters into the light for a quite some time and they may achieve a breakthrough with their new discovery: The dark triad! However there have been mixed views about this new discovery, and with exceptionally good reasons; the dark triad is a psychology subject of the overlapping traits of narcissism, machiavellianism and psychopathy. With the dark triad’s association with the three traits listed above and the adjective ‘dark’, it is no wonder why it’s viewed with fear, yet it’s also viewed as attractive.
The aim behind the dark triad is to find out why narcissism, machiavellianism and psychopathy have overlapping traits, however because it is a relatively new concept and coupled with the lack of knowledge on its traits, there’s yet to be a definite answer. It should also be kept in mind that this essay will be referring to the traits (below) that individuals may display and not the personality disorders that only a licensed psychologists should be attempting to diagnose.
Narcissism is defined by grandiose behavior, egoism and reacting poorly to criticism (aggressively or indifferent) believed to be a product of low self-esteem. On the other hand, individuals with traits of machiavellianism are described as ‘master manipulators’ for using any means necessary to achieve their goals. And last but not least, psychopathy, which is characterized by impulsiveness, fearlessness and recklessness. Though, all of the above share common characteristics, such as lack of empathy, a greater percentage being male and extroverts, and having evil connotations that have resulted in being viewed with fear.
The perception of fear for the dark triad can be divided into two causes: media and reality. The former is more applicable to psychopathy, which has special spot in horror movies, and while “some psychopaths in movies are realistic while others aren't” (Tracy) there’s yet another issue: most of the content regarding psychopaths is either in horror movies or regarding serial killers in news. While there’s some truth to the latter as some serial killers, such as John Wayne Gacy, have been identified as psychopaths there’s still the fact that psychopaths “are present in business leadership positions in a greater percentage than their population base rate” (Shpancer). Yet most people aren’t informed of that piece of information as almost nobody publicly declares they’re a psychopath for being a ‘synonym’ to serial killer or murderer for most.
The other half though is reality and the fact that a shared characteristic among the traits is lack of empathy. Maybe a good percentage of people don’t understand the true horror of lack of empathy, because most of you may not have experienced it first-hand, for empathy is what allows us humans to understand and share feelings with others. It’s why someone would go out of his way to help and the ability to create emotional bonds with others. Imagine someone who lacked that. Who would have no qualms about exploiting or hurting people. What is even more terrifying is that you might never know until it’s too late. Narcissists, machiavellist and psychopaths are charming when you first meet them, they’re extroverts after all, and according to research “they do better on job interviews than normal people” (Kennedict). Only time would tell and maybe with luck you wouldn’t find out too late for “Dark Triad traits are associated with problems including unethical behavior, white-collar crime, lying, deception, and cyber-aggression” and “reductions in the quality of job performance” (Shpancer). Plus their careers tend to end in an unpleasant bang.
The contrasting viewpoint of the dark triad is that some view it as attractive, in the way that they want to display traits of the dark triad, as the website Illimitable Men stated “high social status, tight control over interpersonal social dynamics and elicits intense sexual attraction” (Understanding The Dark Triad – A General Overview). And while what he stated could be seen as true, it isn’t really true. High social status could very well vary as, for example, some psychopaths become CEOs and leaders and others may go to jail or live an average life. For the dark triad traits don’t guarantee a hundred percent ticket to high social standings (as mentioned in the paragraph above). On the other hand, the control over social dynamics could be counted as true at the charming first meeting, but for time as more time spent together would reveal the more unsightly traits (for example egoism and impulsiveness). The last part for “elicits intense sexual attraction” could very well vary for every women’s personal preferences, contradicting “It’s like crack to them” (Understanding The Dark Triad – A General Overview) that was used to describe of overwhelming amount of different opinions, which is too generalized to result in the said results with different people. Though what can I say? I haven’t tried to score anyone and the comments in his article seemed very happy.
Having reached the end with hopefully new knowledge about this new concept in psychology and how it is viewed by two these two viewpoints: fear and attractiveness. Yet I would like to remind you that the monsters under our beds are in our heads and the dark triad isn’t “a cast of villains in an epic tale of fantasy” (Herbert) as seen through a kaleidoscope, but normal people just like you and me.