Unveiling the Root Cause of Your Deepest Urges: Scientific Insights

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Within the realm of psychology, it’s referred to as the dark triad—an amalgamation of three of humanity’s most malevolent tendencies: psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism.

However, the reality delves into deeper and darker realms. Beyond the well-known traits of egoism, sadism, spitefulness, and others, researchers suggest that beneath this rogues’ gallery of our most undesirable inclinations lies a central, shared core of human darkness.

In a 2018 research endeavor, psychologists hailing from Germany and Denmark meticulously charted the impetus steering all our most sinister urges, christening it with a name. Allow us to introduce you to D, the recently acknowledged Dark Factor of Personality.

The conceptual foundation of the D factor is rooted in what is referred to as the g factor: a concept initially proposed by English psychologist Charles Spearman over a century ago. Spearman observed that individuals excelling in one type of cognitive test tended to perform well across various intelligence tests.

In simpler terms, scientists have not only identified a ‘general intelligence factor’ that can be measured but there’s more that they can discern.

In the same way, the dark aspects of human personality also have a common denominator, which means that – similar to intelligence – one can say that they are all an expression of the same dispositional tendency, explained psychologist Ingo Zettler from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark back in September 2018.

Through a series of four independent studies involving more than 2,500 participants, Zettler, and fellow researchers conducted surveys using questions crafted to gauge participants’ levels of nine distinct dark personality traits: egoism, Machiavellianism, moral disengagement, narcissism, psychological entitlement, psychopathy, sadism, self-interest, and spitefulness.

To do so, participants were asked to disagree with a range of variable ‘dark’ statements, such as: I know that I am special because everyone keeps telling me so, I’ll say anything to get what I want, It is hard to get ahead without cutting corners here and there, and Hurting people would be exciting.

After collecting all the responses, researchers conducted a statistical analysis, revealing that while these dark traits maintain their distinctiveness, there is an overlap to some extent. This overlap is attributed to the central core darkness factor, D, which manifests itself in various ways among different individuals.

In a given person, the D factor can mostly manifest itself as narcissism, psychopathy or one of the other dark traits, or a combination of these, Zettler said. But with our mapping of the common denominator of the various dark personality traits, one can simply ascertain that the person has a high D factor. This is because the D factor indicates how likely a person is to engage in behavior associated with one or more of these dark traits.

This is quite thought-provoking, and you don’t have to solely rely on the researchers’ findings – you can personally take the D test.

The team established a web portal where you can assess your personal D score through a questionnaire.

What motivates individuals to seek this information? Beyond personal curiosity regarding one’s darkness quotient, the researchers suggest that their discoveries might pave the way for future breakthroughs in psychology and therapy, enhancing our comprehension of how we perceive malevolent actions.

We see it, for example, in cases of extreme violence, or rule-breaking, lying, and deception in the corporate or public sectors, Zettler said.

Here, knowledge about a person’s D-factor may be a useful tool, for example, to assess the likelihood that the person will re-offend or engage in more harmful behavior.

The results were published in Psychological Review.