The Dark Triad Traits? Psychology & Personality

What are the three traits of the dark triad psychological personality theory and does it apply to you or someone that you know?

The dark triad traits.

The dark triad psychological theory was created in 2002 by Delroy L. Paulthus, and Kevin M. Williams. The theory consists of three personality traits that are considered mostly or potentially negative, therefore dark. These traits are narcissism, psychopathy, and machiavellianism.

These traits are on a scale, so, there is potentially much variation in those who have this combination of traits. On the surface, these people can often seem friendly and likable. However, this is their way of hiding their true selves and motivations.  

The Dark Triad Traits


Narcissism stems from an ancient Greek myth of a hunter called Narcissus. The myth tells the story of Narcissus staring at his own reflection in a pond of water, and falling in love with what he sees, eventually drowning in that same pond.

Narcissists like to be the centre of attention. They will often put others down, including their achievements, in order to make themselves look better.

They are often very concerned with how they are seen by others. This can be with regards to their physical appearance, and also how they are seen intellectually, morally, and in regards to their social status and success. This is why narcissists will often support politically correct views. They are also more likely to engage in what is known as virtue signalling.

Narcissism can be broken down into two main types. Grandiose, and vulnerable narcissism. Egotism, pride, boastfulness, arrogance, and lacking empathy are also associated with narcissism.    


The most common traits that are associated with psychopathy, are, a lack of remorse, selfishness, impulsivity, dangerous risk-taking, and repeated and continuous antisocial behaviour.


Machiavellianism is usually categorised by the following traits. Being manipulative, lacking morality, with a cold tactically minded self-interest. They tend to have a very cynical view of the world, which they often use to justify their manipulative tactics.

Dark Triad Personality Summary 

They will do and say anything for attention and to get their own way, including faking emotions such as empathy and compassion. They will adopt views that are seen in a positive light in society, and if it benefits them, they will ruthlessly attack those who don’t support the same views.

They don’t make or desire the same close social connections that most people do. Any relationship they build will be a tactical decision. Their only real motivation is that of self interest and getting what they want.

They are likely to engage in risky behaviours that not only endanger themselves, but also others. If others do get hurt because of their actions, they won’t have any remorse. It’s all about them.

Encountering someone who strongly exhibits all of these traits is rare. It’s much more common for people to partially have some of these behaviours to a lesser degree.

Similar Posts