Dark Tetrad

The Light Triad vs. Dark Triad of Personality — SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN


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.

Curious Curiosity

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.

CONTINUE READING IN SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN The Light Triad vs. Dark Triad of Personality


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Image Attribution

“sudden in a shaft of sunlight” by Kalense Kid is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

30 replies »

  1. Somehow, I suspect you will not be surprised that i came out above average on the Light Side traits and also “Shockingly Saintly” on the Dark. My reaction to the “Shockingly Saintly” part is interesting. It was kind of a “Huh? That seems a bit over blown.” Anyway, I will be sharing the SA article beyond my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Bob!

      It is a good ‘un as they say back home, isn’t it? I had always had my suspicions that there had to be the equivalent on the other side of the continuum of psychopathy and narcissism. I’m glad to see someone quantify it.

      I thought the same thing about becoming a member of the SS. Saintly? Let’s not get carried away.

      The other thing that is interesting to me about the findings is that the dark triad correlates with being young and male. My guess is that many of those dark triad youths mellow into gray triad adults and possibly light triad grandparents. It seems like there has to be some kind evolutionary purpose here.

      Huzzah!
      Jack

      Liked by 1 person

      • That progression with age would also suggest that the dark triad males who do not follow that path, but remain full dark present a failure of maturation. That would agree with the developmental models of the personality disorders, especially Cluster B. Which makes the Baby Trump blimp so appropriate.

        As to evolutionary purpose, one can speculate that the dark triad gets linked with the adolescent bias toward risk taking and emotional lability, the features that make them good cannon fodder (even millennia before cannons were invented). From the point of view of continuing the species or the tribe, they are expendable.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Howdy Bob!

          That’s a good point about the failure to mature. I’m going to need some more time and reading to work my way through the implications of these findings and apply them to some of our more current situation.

          I had read some speculation that human beings had domesticated themselves. The theory goes that the calmer more reasonable members of the tribe would gang up on and murder the more rash and aggressive members thus eliminating the immediate threat to the group but also eliminating their genes much like breeders did when developing lab rats or the Russian scientists did when breeding a domesticated fox.

          Huzzah!
          Jack

          Liked by 1 person

          • The domestication speculation (I’m not sure it yet qualifies as a full fledged theory.) is interesting. One catch is that we did not evolve from solitary wild animals, but from social primates. We share a common ancestor with the rest of the great apes, and most recently with chimps and bonobos. How do they deal with aggressive young males and persistently problematic individuals? The strategies of those two species are distinctly different, somewhat along the dark triad versus light triad lines. Some anthropologists who study that have suggested (must look up possible references) that we fall somewhere between them in that sense. An interesting question is whether the chimps and bonobos diverged from the common ancestor at the same time as us, or later.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Howdy Bob!

              Man, I LOVE that observation. Chimps are dark triad; Bonobos, light; we’re in between. I’m sure there is work out there that sheds light on how each deals with persistently problematic individuals. I don’t have the time to devote to such an extensive search,but I’d like to. If you come up with the reference, I’d add it to my wish list of things to read if I ever have some time shake loose.

              Perhaps this is another instance of an evolutionary strategy that got us into the position of being the most dominate species on the planet and is now killing us. The morality that dictated eradication of violent aggressive individuals helped us evolve into the moral relatively peaceful species we are now. Now, we allow individuals to sublimate those tendencies and put them to use in service of the state or corporations — no freelancing in the violent aggression area — and we lock people up who are problematic and consider the death penalty barbaric even though it is still used. Now, we can defend ourselves from foreign aggressors, but not from internal ones. Perhaps we’ve done too good of job of domesticating ourselves? Are we scoring one for Hobbes?

              Huzzah!
              Jack

              Liked by 1 person

              • Hmmmm – Back in the old days of hunting & gathering, and early similar level agricultural villages, it must have been pretty easy to get to consensus that someone was acting too far out of line and had to be dealt with. Now, even with so blatantly obvious an example as that cop kneeling on somebody’s neck, the process is complicated, legalistic, and potentially subject to failure. So, the dark triad individual can see a path to getting away with it. Currently, where this hold most true in terms of both psychological and physical abuse/violence is in the domestic realm, between intimate partners (behind closed doors) and toward children.

                In a odd way, perhaps the great tragedy of the dark triad is that some people believe they must steal what otherwise would likely be freely given.

                I found one link on the chimps and bonobos topic:

                https://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2012/05/07/152197388/do-bonobos-and-chimpanzees-offer-a-path-to-understanding-human-behavior

                Liked by 1 person

                • Howdy Bob!

                  That is the frightening thing about the psychopath with strong executive functioning, isn’t it? They learn to hide their self-serving ways and convince those around them of their humanity. Narcissists, of course, are so self-absorbed that they don’t care what others think. And, Machiavellians just see it as another avenue of manipulation.

                  That said, complex systems are rife with nooks and crannies to either hide what you’re really doing or to exploit in your manipulation of others, which is the theme common to all four clusters of the dark tetrad personality type.

                  Trump is so accustomed to cheating, stealing, and lying that he cannot conceive of doing anything without it, even if it is unnecessary to achieve whatever goal and will hurt him in the end.

                  Huzzah!
                  Jack

                  Liked by 1 person

                    • Howdy Bob!

                      I don’t know which is worse, Trump’s inability to conceive of anyone not lying, cheating, and stealing, and so reacting to everything that everyone else does as if they had. Or, the dark tetrad person who KNOWS that there are honest people out there who don’t lie, cheat, and steal. Does one type have a greater advantage than the other?

                      Huzzah!
                      Jack

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • I think Trump does know there are some people who don’t lie, cheat, and steal (likely would think they would if they had “the guts” or “the smarts”), but he know them as losers and suckers, i,e, prey. I doubt that he really thinks of them as honest, just powerless. That said, it is clear that he can see anybody who could be a threat (Robert Mueller) only as a reflection of himself. The dark triad person who really does see such people and has good executive functioning is, I think, far more dangerous and devious. He knows that W. C. Fields was wrong. You can cheat an honest man.

                      Liked by 1 person

              • Another example of dark triad versus light triad social behavior in other social animals is found among wolves. The rule in a wolf pack is that the alpha male has a monopoly on mating, but young male wolves do get horny and will mate with a female in the pack if they think they can get away with it. So, what happens when the alpha catches one in the act? Does he attack and fight with the offender? No, he walks up and places his open mouth on the back of the offender’s head and presses him down to the ground and hold him there briefly. Then he walks away. That action is the same one a mother wolf uses to discipline a misbehaving cub. Alpha is, in effect saying, “You naughty puppy.” The real consequence is that the offender does lose a notch of social status in the pack’s pecking order, but the hunting and fighting capacity of the pack is preserved.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Howdy Bob!

                  When we lived in Kenya and were on safari during rutting season, we’d see herds of impala that were composed of the alpha male, immature impala calves, and adult females. As the season approaches, the alpha males runs all of the other mature males off. Then he spends the season mating and running the other mature males off as they hang around waiting for their moment. The alpha male runs himself ragged because he is constantly chasing off the other competitive males.

                  Such a system would ensure that the most aggressive assertive genes are preserved and that the weaker less aggressive genes are eliminated. Impala are all dark triad creatures. Maybe all of nature is outside of human beings and bonobos? Score another one for Hobbes?

                  Huzzah!
                  Jack

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Indeed, the alpha males of herd critters do seem to have just those two related jobs, although defending against predators could be counted as the third. The females run everything else, like where to go next.

                    I think that pack hunters, like that wolf (and dolphins and orcas) do need to practice a more balanced mode because they need to be able to do complex coordinated activity.

                    Then I think of some birds, notably the corvids, (crows and ravens – I’m not sure about the jays and rooks). They demonstrate a theory of mind capacity and are able to do both cooperation and deception.

                    Oh, back to the herd animals: There, the pattern looks like Male=Dark; Female=Light?

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Howdy Bob!

                      There does seem to be a division of labor there. To accomplish the things that young men need to accomplish — taking risks mainly in defense of the tribe and foraging and reproduction — some of the dark tetrad personality cluster is needed. Women, however, needed to manage a group in order to raise children and accomplish their other tasks.

                      It is interesting to compare the social behaviors of hunter-gatherers where there was plentiful food and mild weather with those where the food was scarer and the weather more daunting. The Polynesians and many of the equatorial tribes were very easy going with mostly ceremonial warfare that may have resulted in kidnapping women from the other group, but rarely deaths. Whereas the men in more temperate and frigid climes needed to fight to the death to defend territory and resources.

                      I guess there is an evolutionary advantage of having dark tetrad personality clusters in the population. The question is whether us light triad personalities can fend off the authoritarianism of the dark personalities.

                      Huzzah!
                      Jack

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • As Gregory Bateson commented, the problem in designing a system is not how to keep the scoundrels out, but to keep them from doing too much damage, because they will always be with us. That is a difficult challenge in large part because it is the dark triad individuals who are most motivated to seek power and manipulate the system. There is an element of truth that some jobs should never go to anybody who wants them. One of the traditional ways around that is systems based on seniority which severely limit the influence of competition. Those systems, however, tend to be quite conservative (not in the current political sense) and slow to change and adapt.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Howdy Bob!

                      One problem I have with students, especially students coming from more traditional educational systems whose culture puts a high value on “good” grades, is that they are reluctant to change the way they study even if it is inefficient and wasting time. They are afraid to change because the old ways got them safely to the place they are at now… good grades. Never mind that their study habits are ill-suited to the new and different education system that they find themselves in. Rote memorization will not be enough to continue earning good grades.

                      It is intuitive: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. As frustrating as it can be, you don’t want those social systems to be volatile and easily changed. Until Republican intransigence took hold, our system was self correcting over time. When we had swung too far to one end of the spectrum or the other, we would begin the process of electing different folks to office. It was only when Reagan brought the Christian Coalition into the Republican tent that things really began to derail. The Christians “know” they’re right, so they don’t have to be democratic. We just need to do what they think we should be doing.

                      The dark tetrad personalities of the Republican Party are being true to themselves and aggressively pursuing their narrow self-interest in spite of the cost to the rest of us. The problem is that there are too many Democratic senators, Manchin and Sinema, to be sure, who are also in that cluster and see nothing wrong with throwing over everything because it helps them. Hopefully, Biden will be able to strong arm them into compliance, but who knows.

                      Huzzah!
                      Jack

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • The message that I hope Biden and others can get across to Machin, Sinema, and any others of their ilk is that it is a case of go big, enact the full agenda, of lose at least the House if not the Senate in ’22, that their only real hope is to do as much as possible for as many as possible and make sure those folks know who did it, that and drop the biggest hammers they can find on this damned virus. I’ve come to think that the question is no longer, “Will one party rule (at least for a while)?”, it is now, “Which one?”. No matter what the Democrats do, or not do, the GOP will scream “Tyranny” and “Over Reach.” They would even if the Dems utterly surrendered. They now know nothing else. So, don’t try to defend against that rhetoric, just get on with doing what the people and the planet (The GOP in control would surely mean either blowing through the 2 Degree target, or collapse of the economy under sanctions*.) need.

                      *The US going back to full on Drill Baby Drill and undoing every move to deal with climate change would pretty much force the other major economic powers (maybe even Russia) to try to whip us into line, much like the members of a hunter-gatherer tribe dealing with a bad actor. It would cost them dearly, but what choice would they have?

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Howdy Bob!

                      There are several sobering realizations about all of this: (1) A CNN/SSRS poll shows 93% of Americans believe that American democracy is under attack or threatened, but it breaks down to 75% Republicans and 46% Democrats. How can Democrats get the base motivated for the ’22 elections if they don’t believe our very democracy is at stake? However, it does appear that enthusiasm is on the side of the Democrats. The turnout in the California recall was showed a big turnout and the small number of special elections have leaned slightly towards Dems in turnout and base enthusiasm. Also, the Big Lie tends to suppress GQP turnout among their marginal voters who helped propel Trump to within 44,000 votes of a second term. Luckily, polls aren’t voting, so maybe just maybe hope still lives.

                      And (2) Manchin seems to believe that the absolute most important thing in all the world is that he be a member of the Senate and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to win his next election. That means he has to appeal to Republican voters back home no matter the effect on the Democrats chances of holding Congress or doing anything else. Sinema, on the other hand, doesn’t seem concerned about reelection at all and is intent on building brand and name recognition and being a contrarian. I don’t know enough about the other moderate Dem senators who would scuttle filibuster reform and the infrastructure deal well enough to ascribe their motivations. But, those two are enough.

                      Biden does work behind the scenes. He is not a showman and making a big deal out of his doings. I’m hoping that he’s working diligently at whipping the vote on the filibuster and voting rights.

                      Huzzah!
                      Jack

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Sobering, indeed. I think you’ve pegged Manchin and Sinema exactly. That difference between the Republican and Democrat perception of threat to democracy seems to reflect a general leaning on one side toward pessimism and the other toward optimism. Also, a significant part of that GOP voter pessimism likely comes out of belief in the Big Lie. Biden has been building his network of connections in DC and the party for a long time, and he came of political age in time to learn a thing or two from the methods of LBJ, both what to do and what not.

                      As for the polls, it appears tey are strongly influenced by Political Fandom rather than political activism. Here are a couple of links on that subject:

                      https://news.txstate.edu/the-conversation/2021/political-fandom.html

                      Low information voters and occasional voters are more likely to identify as political fans and respond to pollsters. In any sport, the fans in the stands are not playing on the field. They are being entertained and indulging in self/identity expression.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Howdy Bob!

                      I’m currently working on a post about the dark tetrad aspects of Manchin and Sinema’s personalities.

                      The conservative personality is defined by feeling threatened. It sees the world as inherently dangerous and caution must be exercised to keep us safe. And, thus, as you rightly observe, is much more pessimistic. The liberal personality sees the world as being safer and an interesting place to explore and try out new things. And, therefore, much more optimistic.

                      I like Biden as president much more than I thought I would. He has good political instincts and, obviously, is an incredible organizers. The #COVID19 vaccine rollout and withdrawal from Afghanistan as chaotic as it was are two incredible feats of organization done early in an administration before all the bugs and kinks have been worked out. He also seems to work a lot more behind the scenes and rolls things out once they are more fully formed, so I’m hoping over the next ten days we see the results of whatever leverage and charm he may have over Manchin and Sinema to get them onboard with the votes we’ll need to protect our nation from the ravages of the GQP.

                      I love the fan literature regarding politics. It is so true and appeals to the low-information voter because it is a cognitive shortcut to decision making: cede all decisions to someone who you think shares your values. We can see the shortfall of that when the people who have been ceded the decision making do not share those values but are only using the presumption to further their own selfish ambitions.

                      Huzzah!
                      Jack

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Yesterday’s interview on Fresh Air of Evan Osnos [https://www.npr.org/2021/09/20/1038983875/evan-osnos-on-the-making-of-americas-fury] includes some observations of the Manchin and the Manchin-Biden relationship.

                      Biden had to take fast decisions and actions on both the pandemic and Afghanistan situations even before his cabinet was fully in place. The Trump administration, whether by incompetence or design (both, actually) had left a mess on both counts and sabotaged the transition process. As for his critics on those issues, hindsight is always so much smarter than what was known and possible at the time.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Howdy Bob!

                      Thanks for the tip on the source. Any insight into Manchin is useful. I’ll try and listen to it before finishing the post tomorrow.

                      I think that with a little more distance, history will look pretty favorably on Biden’s handling of both. All things considered, he’s done a remarkable job. I think the 2021 Biden is making a much better president than the 1988 Biden would’ve. His time with Obama seems to have helped him a great deal as has all of his other experiences and general maturation. It is an interesting commentary on those changes that occur over our lifetime, especially in older age.

                      Huzzah!
                      Jack

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Biden, when circumstances give him the chance, does seem to have mastered the Long Game (patience comes with maturity) and the Quiet Game. With Manchin, I think he has to find a big slab of bacon for the other Joe to take home to West Virginia. Sinema is a different critter entirely.

                      Liked by 1 person

  2. Howdy y’all!

    I was a little afraid to take these tests and even more than a little worried about reporting their results publicly, but what kind of person would I be if I asked all y’all to do it, and I didn’t? I guess one of those dirty buggers from the dark triad.

    In terms of the light triad, I am as follows:
    — Faith in Humanity: over 80 and 26% higher than average
    — Humanism: over 90 and 20% higher than average
    — Kantianism: over 90 and 18% higher than average

    It’s interesting how high the average score is on all of these. Maybe there’s a little social desirability bias going on in these answers… but not mine, of course… or yours, I’m sure. I mean I was a social worker for god’s sake.

    In terms of the dark triad, I am as follows:
    Shockingly Saintly scoring low on Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy

    I guess I’m not too bad of a person. I’m glad I’m old and crotchety and not my younger self taking these tests.

    How about you? How’d you do?

    Huzzah!
    Jack

    Like

      • I kinda feel like they could’ve found.a better term for it. Radical humanitarian, perhaps. Commander in the Army of Kant. You know something with a little more pizazz and a bit less schoolmarmish librarian in it.

        That said, those of us drawn to the couseling-mental health-helping professions were drawn there for a reason. These things tend to cluster.

        I’m glad to know that I’m in such good company at any rate.

        Huzzah!
        Jack

        Liked by 1 person

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