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Dark Pentagram Personality: Dark Triad/Tetrad and Beyond

Uploaded 1/5/2022, approx. 26 minute read

For those of you who have been living under a rock, there are dark personalities and bright personalities. Bright personalities, for example, me, bright personalities are agreeable, they are conscientious, they are a pleasure to be with, they are empathic, etc. They satisfy a few of the big five factors of personality.

And then on the other hand, there are dark personalities, the most famous of which is the dark triad. But the dark triad is only one of a bunch. There is another one, the dark tetrad.

And to the confusion gleefully, I'm going to suggest today a new construct which I call the dark pentagram personality.

Who can say I'm not a sensationalist?

Now, the dark triad is comprised of Machiavellianism, subclinical narcissism, not clinical, not a diagnosis, and subclinical psychopathy. That's the dark triad.

And we will go into details a bit later. The dark tetrad is the dark triad, Machiavellianism, subclinical narcissism, and subclinical psychopathy, together with the subclinical everyday sadism. If you want to learn more, or if you want to get to know what is the dark pentagram personality, you would have to listen to the rest of the video, which is an excellent example of everyday sadism.

A cruel and unusual punishment by Senvaknin, the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited, and elementable professor of psychology. Okei sheshanim shevadvim chmadmadim. Let us delve right in.

Start with the dark triad.

Believe it or not, Machiavellianism is not a new construct. It was first suggested in 1970 by Christie and Geiss. It involves a cynical worldview, a lack of morality and manipulativeness, but as we shall see, a lot more besides.

And then, many decades later, it takes time in psychology for new ideas to be absorbed and accepted and so forth. Psychologists are very, very, very slow people, and some of them are not people at all.

Anyhow, a few decades later, in 2009, John St. Paulus suggested that Machiavellianism also involves planning, coalition formation, and reputation building, whereas psychopaths pay little attention to the impact of their behaviors, Machiavellians plan ahead, build alliances, and try to maintain a positive reputation, say, Jones and Paulus, relying in large part on the work of Herr and Newman of 2008. Jones and Paulus came up with a list which best defines Machiavellianism, and they included strategic manipulation, callous effect, alliance building, as critical elements of Machiavellianism.

And so, they say that the confusion between Machiavellianism and psychopathy is precisely this third element, alliance building. Machiavellians succeed to attract followers, supporters, collaborators, they are good team workers, they build teams, and they leverage other people in order to attain their goals.

Psychopaths would have nothing to do with any of this. Psychopaths detest people and hold them in contempt. They use people, of course, they leverage people very often.

There are studies by Dutton and others which demonstrate that the prevalence of psychopathy among chief executive officers of Fortune 500 companies is something like twice or three times the general populations.

Psychopaths gravitate to positions of management, and so they have to lead teams. But generally speaking, on an everyday basis, Machiavellians work together with other people. Psychopaths rarely do, according to Jones and Paulus.

Many would beg to differ and disagree. What is psychopathy?

Psychopathy was first described by Cleckley in 1941 in his Seminal Masterpiece, The Mask of Sanity. I have read the book, I don't know how many times, and I don't think he is actually describing psychopaths. I think he is describing malignant narcissists, but the term did not exist at the time.

Cleckley postulated a self-controlled deficit and callousness, and he said that these put together lead to criminality. People like Hare, scholars like Hare, which is, by the way, mentioned in the fifth edition of Cleckley's book.

Hare and Newman, they built on that. Hare worked most of his adult life in a prison. He was a prison psychologist, so he was exposed to criminal psychopaths. So was Newman. So they came up with this conception of psychopaths as criminals.

Now, that's a very old-fashioned way of considering psychopathy.

I refer you to Martha Stout's book, The Psychopath Next Door.


Today, we think that psychopathy is much more prevalent and much more ubiquitous, even in non-criminal settings.

I refer you to studies by Paul Benning, Lebritton Benning and Adorno in 2006.

Psychopaths do act in reckless fashion, and this makes them resemble Machiavellianists a lot.

So Machiavellians and psychopaths are both reckless, and the combination of callous manipulation and impulsivity creates a grab-and-run-tactic, which is very often mistaken for criminal behavior.

Let me explain.

Like Machiavellians, psychopaths are callous and impulsive, but unlike Machiavellians, psychopaths think short-term. They are goal-oriented, but the goal is very short-term. They can't plan ahead. They don't have long-term planning. They are not calculated in scheming and cunning like Machiavellians.

So sometimes this leads to very antisocial behavior, which is often mistaken for criminal predisposition, and that's a source of the confusion.

Paul Benning demonstrated that many, many psychopaths avoid criminality and definitely try to evade criminal sanctions, and they suggested three axes or three ways in which this happens.

The first is the notion of non-criminal psychopathy that is less extreme than the criminal version, kind of psychopathy light.

The second vector of non-criminal psychopathy is the moderator case.

When accompanied by some socially attractive attribute like intelligence, attractiveness, athletic ability, membership in a fraternity, psychopathic behavior may take on a much less virulent form. One could almost call it pro-social psychopathy or sublimated psychopathy, and the third vector is the case where individuals possess only a subset of the psychopathic profile, some kind of adaptive aspect or aspects which render them a bit psychopathic.

And this is where we come into subclinical psychopathy.

Many people are subclinical psychopaths. By some estimates, something like 20% of the population, even among women.


The last element in the dark triad is subclinical narcissism.

Narcissism, as we know it today, was first described by Kohut and Kernberg, the other fathers of the modern study of narcissism.

There is work conceptualizing or modernizing Kohut and Kernberg's work in the 70s.

So this modern work, conceptualizing and modernizing, re-conceptualizing, modernizing narcissism, I refer you to Jones, Poggi's, Levy, Ellison, Reynoso, and others in 2011.

Narcissism generally has grandiosity as the main characteristic feature. Attention seeking.

And this was explained, this drive, this compaction in a way, to seek attention in all its form, including by the way negative attention, like I'm doing in this video. You hate my guts. I know, I know, and I'm very happy with it.

All right, Shoshanim, back to business.

Grandiosity and attention seeking with narcissism is explained as a tension between superior surface identity grandiose and some underlying insecurity.

In short, narcissism is perceived as compensatory self-promotion, compensatory image-making, kind of signaling, compensatory signaling. I feel inferior, but I'm going to pretend that I'm superior.

I refer you to work by Morey in 2012, Kane, Pincus, and Ansel in 2008, and many others.

Now in 1979, Raskin and Hall came up with a narcissistic personality inventory, one of the most fatuous, any name self-reporting tools ever invented.

The NPI relies on honest self-reporting by narcissists. Talk about science fiction. At any rate, it was the NPI thatcalled, something that resembles subclinical narcissism.

The first time subclinical narcissism is mentioned in the literature is in 1987 by Emmons.

So the key elements in narcissistic personality inventory, the tool, the instrument for diagnosing narcissism, is grandiosity, an exaggerated sense of self-importance.

And I refer you to work by Miller and Campbell in 2011, analyzing this operationalization of the test.

But some later developments, some later analysis of the results of the test showed us that there are two factors, exactly like in psychopathy.

In psychopathy, we have factor one and factor two. There are two factors in narcissism, or at least in grandiose narcissism.

One is leadership or more precisely self-attributed leadership or authority. And the other is exploitative entitlement.

And I refer you to studies by Kuberich, Dery and Austin, 2004. The interpersonal difficulties created by grandiosity do not necessarily translate into personal maladjustment.

It's a common mistake. It's a myth.

Campbell and Forster in 2007, Wink, as early as 1991, had noted the self-efficacy of grandiose narcissism. Wink sharpened the distinction, the difference between the insecure internal element and the self efficacious grandiosity, especially in a world which rewards narcissism, a civilization that admires ambition and drive and ruthlessness and callousness, like our civilization today.

Handing and Cheek, six years later, in 1997, were the first to pay attention to hypersensitive narcissism. Hypersensitive narcissism is a construct which subsumes vulnerable, shy, fragile, covert narcissism, which was first developed as a construct in 1989 by Akhtar and the late Kuber. Hypersensitive narcissism led to a flurry of studies and work. Pinkus, for example, sort of separated the vulnerable from the grandiose component in the pathological narcissism inventory that was in 2009.

Grandiosity leads narcissistic individuals on a never-ending quest for ego reinforcement, although they don't have an ego, but kind of equivalent of ego reinforcement.

Roderwald in 2001, and this results in self-destructive behaviors very often. Wazir, Funder in 2006.

So the cognitive processes of narcissists are not cunning like the Machiavellian. They are not impulsive like the psychopath. They are not, therefore, deliberate.

The cognitive processes of a narcissist involve self-deception by way of confabulating to bridge memory gaps, by way of creating shared fantasies to attract and involve potential sources of narcissistic supply, so-called intimate partners and insignificant others.

The narcissist believes his own stories. He believes the shared fantasy is real. He believes the confabulation is a fact.

Narcissists believe their own boasts, even when the distortion is self-evident to everyone around them.

I refer you to studies by Robinson John, 1997.

So in this sense, narcissism can be easily construed as a delusional disorder.

Narcissistic grandiosity is very defensive. The narcissist is hypervigilant, is always protecting his grandiosity from any challenge, attack, criticism, disagreement, or countervailing information, and this precipitates aggression when the grandiosity is threatened.

Cases have been documented by Bushman and Baumeister in 1998 and John and Paul Hoos in 2010.

The notion of narcissistic self-loathing has little support. See the work by Campbell and Foster in 2007 and is not captured by tests such as the narcissistic personality inventory, self-trashing, self-loathing, self-patriots, self-destruction, self-defeat may be elements of narcissism, but we don't have actual proof for that.

So it is the grandiose aspect of narcissism that is at the core of the dark triad construct.

Psychopaths and Machiavellians are motivated by instrumental gain. The narcissist is motivated by ego reinforcement. That drives the narcissistic behavior.

The grandiose variant is divided, of course. There are many subtypes and so on. For example, back in 2013, divided grandiosity into self-admiration and rivalry. Rivalry is the more toxic element, you know, out of control, competitiveness, but still grandiosity is at the core of the dark triad and rivalrous grandiosity begins to bridge the gap between narcissism and psychopathy.

It leads from narcissism to psychopathy and therefore it's a hallmark of what Campbell called malignant narcissist and today we call psychopathic narcissist.

Moi. A more ambivalent variant is the concept of communal narcissism, a phrase that I coined. Communal pro-social narcissism is a phrase that I coined in 1995 and later was, as usual, absconded with by others.

It is the notion that some people, some narcissists, advance their grandiosity by claiming to be superior in communal altruistic pro-social or at least socially acceptable behaviors.

I refer you to studies by Gebauer, Sedikides, Verplanken and Mayo, especially in 2012.

There are other conceptual variants and there are other scales, of course. I refer you to Campbell, Bonacci, Shelton, Exline, Bushman, 2004, other and they all deal with entitlement and toxic interpersonal consequences of entitlement and grandiosity and selfishness and egoism.

As early as 1999 we have worked by Weidner and Hessing and Elfers about egoism and there is Fornonen's egotism notion. It's an exaggerated self-positivity.

The outcomes are sometimes adaptive.

There's a whole, of course, universe of literature about narcissism but subclinical narcissism is another name for grandiosity.

So let's pull all these trends together and summarize what is the dark triad.


The members of the dark triad, to remind you, Machiavellianism, subclinical narcissism, subclinical psychopathy, the members of the dark triad have a lot in common.

There's been work by Jonathan Cavanaugh, Webster and Fitzgerald in 2011 that analyzed the commonalities between these three elements of the dark triad.

The similarities probably are the outcome of the fact that all these three are callous, especially in interpersonal relationships.

Douglas, Bohr, Monroe, Figuero, Figuero, others, they have demonstrated that callousness is at the core and the foundation of all three components of the dark triad.

In other words, all three are what we call socially aversive disorders.

I refer you to Rothman, Wei, Tilioporus, among others in 2012.

So these are socially aversive. Callousness is another name actually for lack of empathy. And when you have a lack of empathy, you are not averse to manipulating others and even harming them and hurting them on the way to your goal.

You trample on bodies.

The dark triad members have this commonality, but in some ways they're very different.

For example, the narcissist relentlessly brags all the time, boasts all the time. And so he's very concerned with ego-promoting outcomes.

The psychopath is a vandal, you know, vandalism. He's reckless. He's defiant. He's in your face. His antisocial behaviors are goal-oriented, but sometimes the goal is self-gratification, a feeling of superiority, etc.

He directs his grandiosity that way. And long-term skimming, for example, elaborate fraud, these are best predicted by Machiavellianism, as Fernheim suggested in 2013.


Another very interesting kind of correlate is what we call unrestricted socio-sexuality.

In this politically correct age, you don't say from maladjustment, you say unrestricted socio-sexuality. It's someone who f's around with absolutely anyone without discrimination.

Dark triad traits were found to be positively correlated with various dimensions of short-term making and negatively correlated with long-term making.

I refer to work by Jonathan in 2009.

High scores on psychopathy are associated with hyper-sexuality, high impulsivity, high need for stimulation, risk-taking, novelty-seeking. And this influences desire because socio-sexuality has three components, attitudes, desire, and behavior.

And so the desire in psychopathy is heightened because the sexual arousal is owing to the chance of casual sex.

The attitudes in romantic relationships, group sex, all these are typical of psychopaths.

There's a high negative correlation between psychopathy and agreeableness and conscientiousness.

In other words, psychopathy is not a bright personality, and many psychopaths are not bright, period.


According to Miller and Linna, the core of psychopathy is this.

Psychopathy is the antonym of agreeableness and conscientiousness. It's the antonym of the bright personality. It's the opposite of empathy.

The main characteristics of psychopaths, coldness, lack of empathy and remorse, need for continuous stimulation, inability to delay gratification, lack of long-term goals, impulsivity, lack of commitment. They all facilitate casual sex.

So the literature suggests that ego enhancement drive narcissistic behavior.

Instrumental goals drive Machiavellianism and psychopathy. Machiavellianism differs from psychopathy with respect to impulsivity, and all three have a color score which engenders and fosters the manipulation of others.

There was a dark triad, and then one day someone woke up, Paul Hoos, Dutton, Egan, Knizovic, and others. They woke up and they said, wait a minute, there's another component missing. There's one component missing, and that's everyday sadism.

And so everyday sadism was added to the dark triad, and it gave rise to the dark tetrad.

I'll discuss the dark tetrad in a minute.

But there were other candidates, sensational interests, amoralism.

But the problem is that these other candidates were insufficiently normal, or insufficiently malevolent, or badly defined, or subject to culture-bound specific values and mores, in other words, not universal.

At some point, there was a big debate whether to include hypersensitive narcissism or vulnerable narcissism, covert narcissism, and borderline personality to add them to the dark triad.

But they were ruled out because they involved pathological levels of personal distress.

Miller and others in 2010 were the ones who kind of vetoed the addition of covert narcissism and borderline to the dark triad.

This is where a big two differ.

I think there is subclinical covert narcissism, as there is subclinical grandiose narcissism, overt narcissism.

I also think, and I'm standing on the shoulders of giants, I'm the last in a long lineage and pedigree, there is subclinical borderline.

Borderline organization, borderline style, lean spicing, borderline personality, but not disorder. There is subclinical borderline personality or personality organization, and there's definitely subclinical covert narcissism.

And I think they should have been added to the dark tetrad so that we have a dark pentagram, a dark pentagram personality, Machiavellianism, narcissism, subclinical narcissism, subclinical psychopathy, subclinical covert narcissism, and subclinical borderline personality organization.

I think these are the five, and I think we should have this dark pentagram personality.

It's a new construct that I'm suggesting.

Other things were rejected out of hand, like Alexithymia, Hall, and others in 2013 rejected it.

Status-driven risk-taking, Ashton Lee, possible viscer worth, and Tamayo rejected this in 2010 and in later work. They're insufficiently malevolent, so they don't feed into the dark personality.

There's a distinction between pathological, something that leads to personal maladjustment, and socially maladaptive, interpersonal maladjustment.

The personal and the interpersonal should be separated.

So anything that is pathological leads to personal adjustment is on one hand, and anything that is socially maladaptive leads to interpersonal maladjustment. It should be on the other hand. Only the latter should qualify to be added in the dark personality constructs, not the former.

If your pathology is personal, then you have a diagnosis already in the DSM. You don't need another layer of, another diagnostic layer.

But if your problem is interpersonal maladjustment, if you harm people, if you harm people, if you hurt people, if you damage people, if you're socially maladaptive, if you can't fit in, if you construct.

Social dominance, authoritarianism, sometimes I'm malevolent, sometimes I'm not. That depends on political orientation.

As hate noted in 2013, they cannot be included. It's a matter of argument. Some would say Trump is.

The dark personality, others would say he's a savior and a messiah, and the successor to Jesus.

I'm kidding you not. I saw this online.

So we don't enter a psychologist into these contemporary debates.

But I do think the dark pentagram personality is the ultimate construct, which should subsume the dark triad and the dark tetrad.

I would like to mention briefly two very interesting inventories or tests.

One is the Hogan Development Survey, Hogan and Hogan in 1997. It describes the subclinical level of maladaptive personalities.

It has 11 personality disorders, and it reduces these personality disorders into typical mundane daily pedestrian workplace misbehavior. It's very interesting because ostensibly, it could be a test that can be used to diagnose dark pentagram personalities, or at least dark triad or dark tetra.

And there are other measures developed by Whittaker and his colleagues in 2012. What they had done, they selected items from big five facto personality instruments. And they use these elements as proxy measures for personality disorders.

Very interesting work. Reducing all personality disorders actually into factors of the big five-factor personality model. I refer to work by Miller, Leinem, Whittaker, Leuckefeld in 2001, Whittaker, Leinem, Miller, and Altmanis in 2012.

So darker aspects of personality are captured by these items and these two tests.

But we need to develop tests which are specific, which are subclinical.

The problem in psychological testing nowadays, most of this is focused on pathologies, most of the inventories, structured interviews. They're focused on pathologies.

The dark triad and the dark tetrad and the dark pentagram, they're not pathologies. They're not pathological. These are not diagnosis. These are just, these are normal. They're within the norm. These are just personality inclinations, personality predispositions, tendencies, so to speak.

There are several, so DT is in a way a personality construct.


I want to summarize what is common to dark triad traits.

So we have callousness and being manipulative, diminished self-control, Jonathan and Tost, 2010, present-oriented time perspective, Bukash and Chato, 2015, inability to delay gratification, Rumbach, 2009, Bukash, 2015, and being exploitative, McDonald, 2012.

There's a positive correlation between all of them because they all involve callousness.

Similarly, there's a positive correlation between Machiavellianism and borderline personality organization and new work, new, very compelling work, which demonstrates that borderline personality disorder is a form of secondary psychopathy. I think it's wrong to not include borderline personality and covert narcissism in a dark pentagram personality. I think the triad and the tetrad should be expanded to include these.

I do not think that sadism should be included, and so the pentagram includes Machiavellianism, subclinical narcissism, subclinical psychopathy, covert narcissism, borderline, but not sadism.

Why not sadism?

When we explore the dark traits of the dark tetrad, to remind you, the dark tetrad includes everyday subclinical sadism.

It seems that the dark tetrad kind of, the elements of the dark tetrad kind of bleed into each other.

When we use the hexaco model of personality, it's the negative pole of honesty, humility, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and emotionality dimensions.

So sadism behaves in a similar manner as the other dark traits. Some people say it cannot be reduced to the other dark traits, but most scholars I think would tend to disagree.

Let me try to explain why I think sadism is actually, or everyday sadism, is actually a form of psychopathy.

Here I created the famous PCLR, the test that is commonly used to diagnose psychopathy. I have my misgivings about the PCLR, you can watch a relevant video on my channel, but here it distinguishes between factor one and factor two.

Factor one in psychopathy is manipulation and callousness. It's called the antagonistic core and it completely accounts, factor one completely accounts for the associations among the scores of psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism.

It seems that factor one is the common core of the dark triad, manipulation, callousness. They are the core of the dark triad, and so Machiavellianism and narcissism can be viewed as features or as traits of psychopathy.

Indeed, the cutting edge, bleeding edge work on narcissism right now suggests that what we used to call overt narcissism or grandiose overt narcissism are actually psychopaths, and that the only true form of narcissism is covert narcissism. The only real narcissists are covert, they are compensatory.

All the others, the overt, the braggarts, the swaggers, the boasters, they are psychopaths.

I have a video dedicated to these recent studies, by the way, and so it begins to look like whichever path we take, we end up in psychopathy.

There are, of course, moderators like temporal orientation, being in the present, identity need, and so on, but all in all, it seems that as the dark triad stands right now, it's redundant.

The grandiose narcissism in the dark triad is a facet of psychopathy. Machiavellianism shares so much with psychopathy that they both can be captured with hair's factor one psychopathy.

Sadism is so highly correlated with psychopathy that many scholars suggest that the two measures overlap, that actually sadism is just a form of psychopathy.

The common features shared by all dark personality traits, being callous about the welfare of other people, manipulation, they also underline sadism.

Why multiply entities? Why not say that the dark triad is essentially a measure of psychopathy?

Grandiose psychopathy is subclinical narcissism. Short-term psychopathy is what we call subclinical psychopathy. Conning, skimming, long-term psychopathy is what we call Machiavellianism, and callous, hurtful psychopathy would be sadism.

They're all facets and manifestations of psychopathy, and if this is true then there is a compelling reason to add to the dark triad borderline personality because it's definitely a form of secondary psychopathy and covert narcissism which involves passive aggression and so on, but it's not psychopathy.

Psychopathy is sufficient in my view and in the view of many scholars to represent the core of the dark triad, and one of the main components of clinical psychopathy is impulsivity and irresponsible behavioral style, and it's common to all the others as well.

All these dark personality traits are mere personality tendencies falling in the normal or everyday range, and certainly they're not clinical diagnoses, but they are all all manifestations of each other.

Subclinical sadism is a dispositional tendency to engage in cruel or antagonistic behaviors for pleasure or subjugation.

There's a definition proposed by O'Meara, Davis and Hammond in 2011, but many psychopaths do this. Many psychopaths are sadists, and there's a good argument to make that all sadists are psychopaths.

The conceptual similarities that exist between sadism and dark triad have to do with the negative pole of honesty, humility.

Look at the work done by Bouk in 2016. Each of them demonstrates a proneness towards aggression.

Look at work done by Buckles in 2013, and this provides support for sadism's identification with this constellation of malevolent traits, only as a facet of psychopathy, not as a separate subclinical entity.

It is true that sadism does predict important outcomes beyond the dark triad, for example, certain behaviors like cyberstalking. Those exhibiting high sadism engage in intrinsically motivated aggression for enjoyment rather than for instrumental gain or as a defense mechanism.

It's all true, and Buckles notes it in his work in 2013, but still what is common to sadism and psychopathy is much more than what separates them, and when this happens we don't multiply entities or comes reason.

And so a few years ago, based on these features, enjoyment of cruelty, subjugating nature, sadism was included in the dark side of personality, transforming the dark triad into the dark tetra.

Work by Chabral, Bouvet, Goutard, the French, demonstrated that sadism can explain unique variants over the dark triad at the time. And so dark traits have common characteristics such as callousness or unreadiness for emotional involvement. They have a lot of overlap, but right now the consensus is that dark triad elements have sufficient differences, kind of differentials, to keep them apart.

When it comes to sadism, there's no consensus. There's a big debate.

Many, many influential scholars think that sadism should not be included because it's very much like psychopathy.

I think there's a compelling case to add another form of psychopathy to the dark triad that would be borderline personality,facto two psychopathy, and covert narcissism, which involves callousness, passive aggression, harming other people, and sometimes sadistic pleasure. That would create a new construct, the dark pentagram personality, courtesy of your personal deep devil, Semvakni.

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