February 14, 2020
What is the dark triad? There are three specific personality traits: narcissism, psychopathy, and a trait referred to as Machiavellianism. All three of these traits share a personality trait called antagonism.
Narcissism, as it relates to the dark triad, has two different types: grandiose and vulnerable. With grandiose narcissism, we see traits like being dominant, arrogant, exploiting other people, and exhibitionism. With vulnerable narcissism, we see characteristics like being shy, distrusting other people, having mood lability, and being self-critical. Most of the research on the dark triad is really referring to grandiose narcissism and not vulnerable narcissism.
With psychopathy, we see characteristics like violating social norms, being callous, having a lack of empathy, being impulsive, irresponsible, having superficial charm, being manipulative, and having shallow effect. When we look at the research that studies psychopathy related to the dark triad, we're really talking about a continuum where there can be subclinical psychopathy all the way up to clinical psychopathy.
The last trait in the dark triad is Machiavellianism. We don't really see this mentioned in the clinical literature very much. This is really something we see more in literature related to careers. With Machiavellianism, we see characteristics like being manipulative, callous, being goal-oriented, having a satisfactory to a good level of impulse control, and tending to be related to white-collar crime or at least white-collar antisocial behavior. An important point with Machiavellianism is that there's no clinical impairment here with this particular trait.
What is the difference between the dark traits and the vulnerable dark traits? The dark traits and the vulnerable dark traits are traits that are connected to criminality and, in theory, they are differentially connected to criminality. The dark traits predict certain types of criminal activities and the vulnerable dark traits predict other types of criminal activities. The topic of dark traits and vulnerable dark traits is a little confusing because of the term triad. A lot of times we hear this we hear the “dark triad” and the “vulnerable dark triad,” but just like the traits, there's no single agreed upon definition for the dark triad or vulnerable dark triad. One popular definition of the dark triad would be that there's three traits: psychopathy, narcissism, and machiavellianism. This particular theory, to some extent, has fallen out of favor because machiavellianism doesn't appear to be a distinct construct. I talked about this in a prior video about the dark triad. Another conceptualization has interpersonal and affective psychopathic traits along with grandiose narcissism. The vulnerable dark triad comprises lifestyle psychopathic traits, vulnerable narcissism, and borderline personality traits.
00:30 - What is the dark triad?
07:38 - Dark traits vs vulnerable traits
15:20 - Spotting the dark triad in faces
More Content on Narcissism, Psychopathy, Sociopathy and Antisocial Personality Disorder
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Vize, C. E., Lynam, D. R., Collison, K. L., & Miller, J. D. (2018). Differences among dark triad components: A meta-analytic investigation. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 9(2), 101-111. doi:10.1037/per0000222
Holtzman, Nicholas S. (2011). Facing a Psychopath: Detecting the Dark Triad from Emotionally-Neutral Faces, Using Prototypes From the Personality Faceaurus. Journal of Research in Personality. 45, 648-654.
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Edwards, B. G., Albertson, E., & Verona, E. (2017). Dark and vulnerable personality trait correlates of dimensions of criminal behavior among adult offenders. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 126(7), 921–927.