People with so-called ‘dark’ personality traits span a huge range, from being a scheming Machiavellian to being a cruel sadist – or an amoral psychopath.
But people with these so-called ‘dark’ personality traits tend to share one single ‘dark core’ – and are more likely to have other unpleasant traits, Danish researchers have discovered.
The researchers say, ‘most dark traits can be understood as flavoured manifestations of a single common underlying disposition: The dark core of personality.’
The researchers say that this ‘dark core’, the ‘D factor’ is the general tendency to think of one’s own interests, disregarding, accepting or actively working against the interests of others.
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In a set of studies with 2,500 people, volunteers were asked if they agreed or disagreed with statements, like, ‘It is hard to get ahead without cutting corners here and there,’ or, ‘It is sometimes worth a little suffering on my part to see others receive the punishment they deserve.’
The researchers say that the ‘D Factor’ research, published in the journal Psychological Research, is similar to previous research which showed that people who scored highly in one intelligence tests would also score well in others.
Ingo Zettler, Professor of Psychology at the University of Copenhagen, said, ‘In the same way, the dark aspects of human personality also have a common denominator, which means that – similar to intelligence – one can say that they are all an expression of the same dispositional tendency,
‘For example, in a given person, the D-factor can mostly manifest itself as narcissism, psychopathy or one of the other dark traits, or a combination of these. But with our mapping of the common denominator of the various dark personality traits, one can simply ascertain that the person has a high D-factor.
‘This is because the D-factor indicates how likely a person is to engage in behaviour associated with one or more of these dark traits.
‘We see it, for example, in cases of extreme violence, or rule-breaking, lying, and deception in the corporate or public sectors. Here, knowledge about a person’s D-factor may be a useful tool, for example to assess the likelihood that the person will reoffend or engage in more harmful behaviour.’