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  • The Dark Triad

    Posted on by jbr


    It treatment feels terrible. Being treated like an It, as though we do not matter, carries a particularly harsh sting. It makes us feel social rejection as deeply as physical pain. Those who always regard others as an “It” are particularly disturbing.

    Empathy is the prime inhibitor of human cruelty; withholding our natural inclination to feel with another allows us to treat the other as an “It”.

    Those able to tune out caring typically belong to one of the types that psychologists dub “the Dark Triad”: narcissists, Machiavellians and psychopaths.

    Note: The following information is adapted from the book Social Intelligence, The New Science of Human Relationships by Daniel Goleman.


    Narcissists care little about how their actions affect others. They feel free to pursue their goals aggressively, regardless of the human costs. The narcissist’s motto: Others exist to adore me.

    Among the Dark Triad, narcissists alone are blatant in their self-inflation and braggadocio – leavened with a necessary dose of self-deception. Their bias is firmly self-serving: they take credit for successes but never blame for failure. They feel entitled to glory, even blithely claiming credit for others’ work (but they see nothing wrong in this – nor in anything else they might do). Narcissists exploit people – glorifying themselves at the expense of slighting someone else.


    Machiavellians share traits with the other two branches of the Dark Triad: disagreeable nature and selfishness; yet, the Mach remains realistic about himself and others. The Mach prefers to see things clearly, all the better to exploit them. Machs bring someone’s emotions into focus mainly when they wish to use that person for their own ends. They see the world in rational, probabilistic terms that are not only devoid of emotions, but absent the ethical sense that flows from human concern. Hence their easy fall into villainy. Machs cannot feel with or for others.


    Psychopaths – their hallmarks are deceit and a reckless disregard for others. A psychopath’s consistent irresponsibility begets no remorse – only indifference to the emotional pain others may suffer. For psychopaths, other people are ALWAYS an “It”. A mark to be used, duped and discarded. Psychopaths feel virtually no anxiety. The seem immune to stress due to the absence of apprehension. This seemingly “cool-headedness means that psychopaths are dangerous. They are virtually oblivious to the threat of punishment. This indifference to consequences that keep others law-abiding makes psychopaths the most likely candidates for prison among the Dark Triad.

    Psychopaths have no empathy. They do not recognize fear or sadness on peoples faces or in their voices. Psychopaths are cruel. They are unfeeling. Numb in the face of distress. They can be adept at social cognition, getting inside someone’s head to surmise their thoughts and feelings so they can “push all the right buttons.”

    They are socially smooth when necessary, able to “woo” with false charm. They possess a classic pattern of glib superficial charm, pathological lying and impassivity. The apply no brakes on their own meanness and cruelty. They bully, intimidate, look for fights and commit crimes against property and people without an ounce of remorse.

    Because to them, people are merely objects to mistreat, abuse, or worse. Just like the psychopath society thrust on me, Medusa.