The 4 Dark Psychology Traits Explained

For a while, psychologists talked about three bad personality traits called the “dark triad”: narcissism, being like Machiavelli, and psychopathy. But lately, experts are saying we should add another one called sadism. So now, instead of just three, we’re talking about four bad traits in psychology.

In this blog, we’ll talk about four specific qualities and go into detail about each one. But before we get into that, it’s crucial to understand them well if you want to know how to avoid being tricked or influenced by others. Actually, these qualities are really important in various areas like psychology, law enforcement, and business management. Research shows that people who have high levels of these traits are more likely to do bad things, cause trouble in groups or at work, make life hard for those around them, and even negatively affect society overall. So, in business, it might be smart to keep these kinds of people away from positions where they have a lot of power.

Sometimes we come across people who are really into themselves, who manipulate others for their own benefit, who enjoy causing pain to others, or who lack empathy. These traits aren’t uncommon and we might notice them if we pay attention. Actually, all of us possess these traits to some degree. Psychologists use tests that see these traits as existing on a range rather than as absolute characteristics. For instance, instead of just being sadistic or not, we can have varying levels of sadism in different people.

One important thing to remember is that some of the behaviors shown by people with each of the four personality traits can be similar. This can make it confusing, even for experts in psychology. For instance, someone who is narcissistic might act like someone who is Machiavellian or sadistic. Because of this, it can be tough to figure out exactly which dark personality trait someone has just by watching them for a short time.

If someone does something bad that hurts others, you might figure out what kind of bad trait they have by looking at why they did it and how bad the action was. Don’t decide too quickly; take time to really look at how the person acts before judging them. If their actions hurt you, it can be tough to stay fair when figuring out their bad traits, but it’s crucial to realize that you can only handle people well if you understand them. Try to step back from the situation and think about the person like you’re not involved, so you can see things clearly.


Narcissism is when someone thinks they’re better than everyone else and they always want to be the center of attention. They act like they’re really important and special. They might seem charming and confident, but they’re only interested in themselves and don’t care about other people’s feelings. They use others to make themselves feel even more special.

Narcissists are really good at making friends and getting along with people, often making it hard for others to see that they’re only looking out for themselves. We all have some self-centered tendencies, but only a few people have a serious condition called Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

The words “Narcissist” and “Narcissism” are based on a guy named Narcissus from an old story. Narcissus was really good-looking, but he was also mean. Even though people liked him, he didn’t care about anyone else’s feelings. So, a goddess got mad and cursed him. He ended up falling in love with his own reflection in a pond and couldn’t stop looking at himself. That’s where the idea of being a narcissist comes from – someone who’s really into themselves and doesn’t care about others.

Modern narcissists are like Narcissus because they’re really into themselves.

Psychologists found that narcissists don’t love who they really are. Instead, they love an imaginary perfect version of themselves. They might seem confident, but it’s not genuine self-esteem. They love the idea of being great, not themselves. When they act selfishly, it’s to chase this unrealistic image, even though they know it’s not true.

Narcissists think they’re super important and should be treated better than everyone else. They believe they deserve special treatment and that when they get it, it’s good for everyone. Even when they’re using you, they think they’re helping you somehow. This lets them justify being selfish and doing bad stuff. In relationships, they put themselves first and feel they deserve more than the other person. At work, they think they’re better than their coworkers and should get all the good projects and promotions.

Narcissism means thinking you’re better than others. Sometimes, this can actually help a person succeed. If someone with a big ego believes they’re smarter or should be a leader, they might work really hard to prove it. And in the end, they might actually achieve more in their career or convince others they’re a great leader because of their confidence.

Some people think being a bit narcissistic might be okay if the person is also good and moral. But usually, narcissists care mostly about themselves. Eventually, they might do something wrong and break the trust of people who think highly of them. Even if they seem confident and ethical at first, they can become arrogant and ignore ethics when they feel challenged.

Narcissists think they’re really special and important. They like being around people who agree with them and make them feel good about themselves. But even those agreeable people can see when someone’s not perfect. After a while, they might stop praising the narcissist all the time. So, narcissists try to control what those people think and do, so they keep getting praised.

Narcissists like to be in charge. They control others in sneaky and obvious ways. They manipulate people to keep getting attention and admiration, which they crave. When someone tries to break free from their control, they get angry or really mad. In relationships, they might become abusive to keep their partner under their control. At work, they might act mean to people who challenge them because they want to show they’re the boss. In the blog later on, we’ll talk about how to handle narcissistic people.


Machiavellianism is when someone is sneaky and tricks others to get what they want. Machiavellians don’t care about being good or following rules; they only care about themselves. They’ll do anything to benefit themselves, even if it means hurting others or breaking rules. They’re not interested in what’s right or wrong, just what helps them.

Machiavellians are people who are very calculating and don’t really care about being fair or nice. They’re good at tricking others and see life as a game where if they win, someone else loses. They think it’s okay to use sneaky tactics to get what they want, no matter what. They treat relationships like business deals, always thinking about what they can get out of it. They believe that as long as they get what they want, it doesn’t matter how they got it.

Machiavellianism is a term named after an Italian guy called Niccolo Machiavelli. He wrote a book called “The Prince” where he talks about how to control people and gain power. The book basically says it’s okay to be sneaky and trick others to get what you want. It also says it’s fine to harm others if it helps you. Machiavellianism is kind of like being narcissistic because both ideas believe that what’s good for them is good for everyone, even if it means hurting others.

Some people who are like this might cheat, lie, or hurt others to get what they want. They don’t really care about how others feel. If you’re in a relationship with them, you might feel like your connection is shallow. They’re willing to harm others if it helps them, not because they enjoy it like narcissists or psychopaths, but because they think it’s a smart move. They don’t really think about how their actions affect others emotionally, unless they think it might cause problems for them later.

Machiavellians have a different way of understanding people compared to most others. They have what we call “cold empathy” instead of “hot empathy.”

“Hot empathy” means understanding and caring about how others feel in a situation. Regular people usually have this. They get how others are feeling and try not to hurt their feelings.

But Machiavellians have “cold empathy.” They can figure out what others might do in certain situations or how things might turn out, but they don’t really connect with other people’s emotions. So, they might seem unfriendly, distant, or harsh because they don’t get how others are feeling.

Some scientists think being Machiavellian, meaning being manipulative and focused on personal gain, could be good because it helps people understand others’ emotions and deal with problems. They can ignore empathy to protect themselves better. In a rough world where only the strongest survive, this trait might be helpful. But in today’s society, where we all need to care about each other, being Machiavellian causes problems.

Machiavellians are really good at tricking people and often end up doing sneaky, white-collar crimes like stealing money or cheating in business. They climb the ladder by tricking others and once they’re in charge, they keep using those tricks to control everyone else.


Out of all the bad personality traits, psychopathy is the worst. Psychopaths don’t care about others because they lack empathy. Instead, they’re impulsive and love excitement. They’re cold, manipulative, and think highly of themselves. They chase thrills without caring who they hurt.

Psychopaths are tricky to recognize because they act like everyone else on the outside. Even though they don’t feel empathy or guilt, they pretend to be normal by watching how others react emotionally. Sometimes they can seem charming when they’re trying to control or influence you. They can be unpredictable and might have a tendency to do things that are against the law, but not all of them do.

Many people find psychopaths fascinating, so they often appear in movies, books, and TV shows. But, there are misunderstandings about them. We usually think of psychopaths as really bad criminals or crazy people. The problem is, most psychopaths don’t look like that. They might seem normal, but they can still hurt us. For example, someone who enjoys causing trouble, doesn’t care about your feelings, or lies to you a lot could be a psychopath.

When grown-ups have psychopathy, there’s no sure way to make it better. But if kids or teenagers show signs of being psychopathic, there are programs that can help them learn to be kinder and think about others more.

It’s important to know the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath. People often mix up these terms, but in psychology, they mean different things. A sociopath is someone who behaves in an antisocial way. This behavior usually comes from experiences and environment. For example, someone who had a rough childhood might not trust others and act antisocially because of it.

On the flip side, being a psychopath is something you’re born with. It’s not something you become later in life; it’s already in you from the start. However, the way you’re raised and the things around you can make it show up more or less. For instance, if someone with psychopathic traits grows up in a chaotic and violent environment, those traits might become more noticeable. Scientists say there are three main reasons why someone might be a psychopath: genes, how the brain is structured, and the environment they grow up in.

Just like other personality traits, psychopathy varies from person to person. Experts use a scale to measure how much of it someone has. Everyone fits somewhere on this scale, but if someone scores 30 or higher, they’re seen as having significant psychopathic traits. Mental health professionals often use a tool called the Hare Psychopathy Checklist to spot psychopathy, especially in patients and criminals. But if you suspect someone you know might be a psychopath, you can also find this checklist online for free and use it as a guide to help you figure it out.


Just like the other three dark traits, sadism means being cold and uncaring towards others. Sadistic people don’t always act impulsively or manipulate others like the other dark traits do. That’s why sadism wasn’t initially grouped with the other dark traits. But what sets sadists apart is that they actually enjoy being cruel to others.

Everyday sadists seem normal on the outside, but they enjoy hurting others. They’re called “everyday” because they’re different from narcissists, Machiavellians, and psychopaths who may also enjoy hurting others but have other bad traits too. Sadists like causing harm, even to innocent people. Sometimes, they’ll even choose to hurt others even if it hurts them too. They find being mean enjoyable, and some even find it exciting or even sexually arousing.

Some psychologists think that people who enjoy hurting others might be attracted to jobs where they can do it legally. This includes jobs like being a police officer or in the military. They’ve noticed that there are more of these types of people in police forces compared to the general population. This might be why some police officers sometimes act outside the rules.

Sadists are people who enjoy causing pain to others, even when there’s no reason for it. When they realize someone won’t fight back, they’re more likely to keep hurting them. That’s why bullies often target those who won’t stand up for themselves.

Sadists are people who enjoy making others feel bad. They might spill your secrets, even if they promised not to, just to see you squirm. They might lie about you to make you look bad, not for any reason other than finding it amusing. They might try to get you fired or mess up your relationships just because they like seeing you unhappy. They might even steal from you or bully you, just for the fun of it.

You can tell if someone enjoys causing pain by what they say online. Many people who like to upset others online are actually just everyday sadists. They’ll say mean things about anything, not because they really believe it, but because they want to upset you. They’ll always find something bad to say, even about nice things online. When you argue with these people, they feel more excited and will bother you more.

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