According to science and the “Dark Triad” of personality traits.
A popular view among psychologists is that each of us — to some extent — embodies the “dark triad” of personality traits. The traits include Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy.
BBC Future has put together an interactive quiz inspired by questionnaires developed by Delroy Paulhus, a doctorate personality psychologist from Columbia University, and Daniel Jones who worked with Paulhus on the dark triad of personality.
But before moving onto the quiz, let’s dive into what each of these traits really represents.
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The word Machiavellianism was coined by Italian Renaissance writer Niccolò Machiavelli who famously described the term in his book The Prince. He wrote of immoral behavior (like dishonesty and killings) being normal in politics, and this delves right into the core of the personality trait.
In psychology, Machiavellianism refers to those who are master manipulators — they have a tendency towards being duplicitous, conniving, and deceptive. They use other people like pawns as a means of achieving their goals, and often mask their intentions with charm and friendliness.
The terms “narcissism” or “narcissist” originated from Greek mythology, when a young, self-absorbed boy, Narcissus, fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. In 1914, famous psychologist Sigmund Freud popularized the term in his essay On Narcissism.
Narcissists typically live along the lines of “Me, me, me!” A narcissist is particularly vain and egotistical, and their relationships with others typically revolve around themselves. A narcissist sees him or herself as always right, and a telltale sign is when someone can talk and talk but never listens to others.
We’ve all become a little more acquainted with this personality trait through Trump’s presidential pursuit…
Jeffrey Dahmer, Norman Bates, Adolf Hitler — just a few of the psychopaths you’ve likely heard of.
Typically, psychopathy is defined as a personality disorder that involves antisocial behavior and a reduced ability to feel empathy towards others and remorse for an individual’s own actions. Psychopaths have trouble controlling their impulses and often commit violent or sexual crimes.
Experts say that psychopaths lack a conscience, which could explain why many psychopaths go on to commit crimes like serial killing, murder, rape, and other twisted acts. People often mix up psychopaths and sociopaths, but sociopaths typically have a conscience, even if it’s a weak one.
Unsettlingly, not all psychopaths go on to be criminals — some psychopathic traits are linked to high career success.
In fact, a recent study suggested that all three traits in the dark triad are linked with getting ahead in a career.
So now that you know a little more about all of these glorious traits, are you ready to figure out how much of the dark triad is in your personality?
Here’s a sneak peek of what BBC’s interactive quiz looks like.