The Malevolent Side of Human Nature: A Meta-Analysis and Critical Review of the Literature on the Dark Triad (Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy)

Peter Muris*, Harald Merckelbach, Henry Otgaar, Ewout Meijer

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

The term dark triad refers to the constellation of narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Over the past few years, the concept has gained momentum, with many researchers assuming that the dark triad is a prominent antecedent of transgressive and norm-violating behavior. Our purpose in this meta-analytic review was to evaluate (a) interrelations among narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy; (b) gender differences in these traits; (c) how these traits are linked to normal personality factors; and (d) the psychosocial correlates of the dark triad. Our findings show that dark triad traits are substantially intercorrelated, somewhat more prevalent among men than women, predominantly related to the Big Five personality factor of agreeableness and the HEXACO factor of honesty-humility, and generally associated with various types of negative psychosocial outcomes. We question whether dark triad traits are sufficiently distinct and argue that the way they are currently measured is too simple to capture the malevolent sides of personality. Because most research in this domain is cross-sectional and based on self-reports, we recommend using a cross-informant approach and prospective, longitudinal research designs for studying the predictive value of dark triad features.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-204
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
Volume12
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017

Keywords

  • Dark triad
  • narcissism
  • Machiavellianism
  • psychopathy
  • review
  • meta-analysis

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