What is the “Dark Triad”?

Originally posted on Lucky Otter’s Haven on July 28, 2015

“The Dark Triad” by ShadOw-wOlf on Deviantart

I’ve heard this term before, so I decided to look it up. According to Wikipedia:

The Dark Triad is a group of three personality traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy. Use of the term “dark” implies that these traits have malevolent qualities:

Narcissism is characterized by grandiosity, pride, egotism, and a lack of empathy.
Machiavellianism is characterized by manipulation and exploitation of others; a cynical disregard for morality, and a focus on self-interest and deception.
Psychopathy is characterized by enduring antisocial behavior, impulsivity, selfishness, callousness, and remorselessness.

People high in Dark Triad traits are correlated with those who show an increased tendency toward racism, aggression, and bullying. Studies have shown that Internet trolls are high in Dark Triad traits, which include sadism, antisocial behavior, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism.

Dark Triad traits also are correlated with an accelerated mating strategy. Again, from Wikipedia:

[…]studies have suggested that on average, those who exhibit the dark triad of personality traits have an accelerated mating strategy, reporting more sex partners, more favorable attitudes towards casual sex, lowered standards in their short-term mates, a tendency to steal or poach mates from others, more risk-taking in the form of substance abuse, a tendency to prefer immediate but smaller amounts of money over delayed but larger amounts of money, limited self-control and greater incidence of ADHD symptoms, and a pragmatic and game-playing love style. These traits have been identified as part of a fast life strategy that appears to be enacted by an exploitative, opportunistic, and protean approach to life in general and at work.

A variation on The Dark Triad is the Vulnerable Dark Triad, comprised of three related (but more vulnerable) traits: vulnerable (covert) narcissism, Factor 2 Psychopathy (a high score in the second–aggressive as opposed to manipulative–set of traits in the Hare Psychopathy Checklist), and borderline personality disorder (BPD).

Extrapolating from this information, it would seem that a typical Dark Triad person would be a high-functioning malignant narcissist with sadistic traits and very cunning and manipulative, while a VDT (Vulnerable Dark Triad) person would be a hypersensitive, paranoid borderline/cNPD with poor impulse control and prone to frequent rages. (Yikes! this sounds a lot like me until pretty recently!)

On a lighter note (pun intended), here is Ruji’s “Bright Triad”: ADHD + Autism + Bipolar.


It’s a nice antidote for the unsettling creepiness of the Dark Triad. (Click to enlarge graphic).

Here’s a test that will show you how high you score in Dark Triad traits:

My results:
If there was a test for VDT traits, I’m sure my score would be much higher than this.


4 thoughts on “What is the “Dark Triad”?

  1. It seems strange that this is a triad as most of the traits are in all three. But the test separated them. It gave me 51% each for Narcissism and Psychopathy and a wopping 78% in Machiavellianism. WOW, Laurel, your score is so low. You must be a saint. 🙂 But is “dark” associated with mallevolence?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m probably high in VDT (vulnerable dark triad) traits–including Factor 2 psychopathy (which is just acting out, impulsive behavior). I’m sure I used to be much worse though. I definitely have the covert narcissism and BPD. Unfortunately I didn’t see a test for VDT traits. I’m sure I’d score much higher on that.

      I’m highest in Machiavellianism too. I read somewhere most women are more so than men, because we’re more manipulative (I’m not sure if that’s really true though).


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