Regular readers and the casual peruser alike probably realize that Ye Olde Blogge loves themselves some dark tetrad, so imagine how we felt about finding out that there was a LIGHT TRIAD! Well, we kinda laughed up our sleeves reflecting on how thin, paltry, and downright unpopular Dante’s Paradiso was, especially when compared to Dante’s Inferno. Nobody is interested in reading about the good. Pah! We want sin! Disaster! Pain! Suffering! Just desserts!
Good thing we’re talking about sober scientists and not some common 14th century pulp fiction swilling tabloid consuming readers of obscure blogs, right? But, it stands to reason that if there are those among us who have no sense of shame or guilt or humility and are willing to manipulate anyone and everyone to get their way and either not care who they hurt along the way or, worse, revelle in the pain they cause, then there must be those who care deeply for others and value them for just existing, right? If we’ve got one genetic variant that produces psychopathy, there’s likely to be a genetic variant that produces the opposite, nurturopathy? Humanitarianopathy?
The Light Triad
Anywho, similar thoughts occurred to Barry Kaufman and his et als, David Yaden, Elizabeth Hyde, and Eli Tsukayama who started searching for a set of traits that would be the opposite of the dark triad and cluster together just as much as those ones do. To their surprise they found three clusters:
- Kantianism: I got to say that term just cracks me up. Kant. Immanuel Kant was a real pissant who was very rarely stable, according to those esteemed philosophers known collectively as Monty Python. They mean, of course, that people aren’t unstable pissants, but that at heart we are fundamentally good and that we should working together and promoting that fundamental goodness. They describe it as treating people as ends unto themselves, not mere means. Sounds like something we should all aspire to in these dark times.
- Humanism: I know that humanism has been sullied by conservatives who look to smear anything that smacks of liberalism. This struggle dates back to the Enlightenment and probably before. Thanks, Hobbes! But, they mean pretty much what everybody means by humanism, valuing the dignity and worth of each individual. When a solid quarter of the population is choosing delusion, sickness, death, and threatening the rest of us with the same, it’s kinda hard.
- Faith in Humanity: While Kant’s thought was that all people are fundamentally good because we were made in the image of a just, kind, and “good” god, their Kantianism is on his belief that we should value that quality in each other promote goodness by treating each other well. This principle simply focuses on believing in the fundamental goodness of humans. In these times, this one can be challenging.
Of course, there’s a test to take to determine how far into the light you’ve wandered. Go ahead. Take the test. You know you want to. And, while you’re at it take the dark triad test, too. Then, let’s discuss the results in the comments.
It would take genetics to continue flying in the light while MAGA Nation tries to kill us in their social fugue. But, that is in part what their findings show. Many people have aspects of both the dark and light triads. However, after testing thousands, the sample were more light than dark and that true malevolence was actually rare.
Correlating Clusters of Traits
Positive Qualities of the Dark Triad Personality
They also found that many of the dark triad personalities cluster with some positive qualities such as utilitarian moral judgements, bravery, leadership, and assertiveness. The dark triad correlated with being young, male, power seeking, instrumental sexuality, selfishness, and self-enhancement, which all seems to add up to Book-K and rape. Let’s face it. That’s the foundation of sexual assault and other crimes. And, interestingly, many young men outgrow it and quit offending in early adulthood.
The Light Cluster
The light triad was correlated with being older, feminine, compassion, empathy, spirituality, conscientiousness, and many other “good” traits that we all wish MAGA Nation and Bernie Bros could embrace. Comparing the two, it almost seems that people mature through their more selfish childhoods and young adulthoods into mellow supportive grandparents. Perhaps some of these things correlate with survival at those ages.
There is a curious correlation with curiosity, though. Both the light and dark triads correlate with curiosity, but with significant differences. The dark triad personalities were curious about things that frightened them, that were unexpectedly frightening, and that they either didn’t know or couldn’t quite think of. While the light triad personalities were curious about things that stretched them by learning or rising to a challenge,
Unsurprisingly, light triad personalities had significant correlations with some of the more apprehensive emotional experiences such as survivors guilt, separation anxiety, and unnecessary worry about people.
There’s a lot packed into there findings. The thought that it is a science fact that there are more good people than bad is comforting. Realizing that the bad people are likely more assertive and ambitious is at least explanatory of our voting patterns. It’s going to take me a while to digest their findings completely, so in the meantime read their Scientific American article or if you’re inclined, their paper in the Frontiers in Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology.
The Light Triad vs. Dark Triad of Personality
New research contrasts two very different profiles of human nature
By Scott Barry Kaufman on 19 March 2019
Why are dark triad people so seductive? Why do they get all the research attention? I asked my colleague David Yaden in his office. Immediately his ears pricked up, and he asked me to send him papers on the dark triad, remarking that he hadn’t heard of the dark triad but that it sounded fascinating (thus proving my point).
When I went back to my office, I emailed some papers to David and my colleague Elizabeth Hyde. In a quick email response, David simply wrote back, “light triad”? Now my ears pricked up. Was there such a thing? Had it been studied?
The dark triad has already been well-studied. First discovered by Delroy Paulhus and Kevin Williams in 2002, the dark triad of personality consists of narcissism (entitled self-importance), Machiavellianism (strategic exploitation and deceit) and psychopathy (callousness and cynicism). While these three traits had traditionally been studied mostly among clinical populations (e.g., criminals), Paulhus and Williams showed that each of these traits are clearly on a continuum—we are all at least a little bit narcissistic, Machiavellian and psychopathic.
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