By Nasrin Kapadia

B. A. Psychology

06 December 2021
Medically reviewed by
Dhanashree Padhye
MA (Psychology)
What Is Dark Psychology?
Table of Contents

According to experts, Dark Psychology is the study of the human condition related to the psychological nature of people to prey upon other people, motivated by criminal and deviant drives that lack purpose and general assumptions of instinctual drives and social science history.

In simpler words, Dark Psychology is a human tendency to use behaviors like manipulation, persuasion, motivation, and coercion for their benefit.

As said by Sigmund Freud, "Drive operates as a constant motivational force." Because of these drives, people behave how they do, be it negative or positive.

Outside the fantasy world, this side of psychology exists that is used in every field and day-to-day life. These traits somehow persist in all of us but lead to an extent without repression only in a few.(Steidle, A., Werth, L. and Hanke, E.V., 2011)

Is Dark Psychology a Real Thing?

While there is no such thing as dark psychology, the Dark Triad personality characteristics have been extensively researched. The Dark Triad is a set of three personality qualities that make up the foundation of probably the worst sort of person you'll ever encounter.(Mathews, A., Ridgeway, V. and Holmes, E.A., 2013)

What Is a Dark Triad?

The term "Dark Triad" refers to the dark or negative psychological traits that affect an individual and their surroundings in a toxic manner. Dark Psychology has many such negative traits list that would be never-ending. Hence, the traits have been categorized into Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy.

Narcissism: Ever heard of a hunter who fell in love with his reflection in a pool of water and drowned? Well, that is narcissism. Narcissistic people can turn to be selfish, egotistical, arrogant, uncompassionate, and thin-skinned to criticism.

Machiavellianism: The word from the Italian political philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli, the author of the most famous thesis on bare-knuckled politics, "The Prince," depicts the art of cunningness and duplicity in diplomacy. The traits included in this part of the Dark Psychology are duplicity, manipulation, self-obsession, and immorality.

Psychopathy: This trait includes continuous anti-social behavior, impulsivity, selfishness, callous and unemotional traits, relentless behavior. It is important to acknowledge that there is a difference between psychopathic traits and being a psychopath, commonly associated with criminal violence.(Jakobwitz, S. and Egan, V., 2006)

How To Pinpoint These Traits?

The traits belonging to the Dark Triads of the Dark Psychology can be categorized into Dark Triad Test and Reasoning.

Dark Triad Test

Often used by the police and courts, in the psychiatric ward, and in big corporations, The Dark Triad test is a personality inventory that explores the socially undesirable traits of Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy. Studies show that people who score high on Dark Triad Test have a high chance of committing a crime, causing social distress and rooting problems at the workplace. This test aims to measure an individual's Dark Triad traits according to brief and easy-to-answer test items that provide an accurate measure of the individual's Dark Triad traits.

The questions are in a format of self-test, and the individual has to rate themselves based on the given sentences:

  • I tend to manipulate others to get my way.
  • I have used unnecessary lying.
  • I have used flattery to get my way.
  • I tend to exploit others towards my end.
  • I tend to lack remorse.
  • I tend not to be too concerned with morality or the morality of my actions.
  • I tend to be callous or insensitive.
  • I tend to be cynical.
  • I tend to want others to admire me.
  • I tend to want others to pay attention to me.
  • I tend to seek prestige or status.
  • I tend to expect special favors from others.

At its basic level, an individual would be rated from 1 to 7 on each of the 12 questions, giving a possible score between 12 to 84. The higher the score, the higher the probability of having Dark Triad tendencies.(Mousas, A., Ntritsos, G., Chen, M.H., Song, C.I., Huffman, J.E., Tzoulaki, I., Elliott, P., Psaty, B.M., Blood-Cell Consortium, Auer, P.L. and Johnson, A.D., 2017)


These Dark Triad personalities have a definite relationship pattern:

How To Avoid Being Manipulated By Dark Psychology?

Knowing the following strategies can help you protect yourself and recognize when you are being used. You don't have to be paranoid, but you should safeguard yourself and the people you care about. When you feel someone is attempting to manipulate you, there are actions you may do to combat their evil techniques.

It's crucial to remember that these methods may be used by anybody, but the amount of danger you can face depends on who is utilizing them. If a friend or family member uses manipulation methods, for example, you are likely to be at less risk than if someone you don't know does.

Awareness Is Important

When someone is manipulating you, you typically have a sense of it. You'll be anxious, guilty, pressured, annoyed, and even furious a lot. At the same time, you may be perplexed as to why you are experiencing these feelings. This is a red flag that you should be careful in your interactions with the other individual.

Question What You’re Being Told To Do

If you challenge the person's thinking and goal, a manipulator (whether deliberate or not) will generally reassess and stop utilizing manipulation methods. Ask inquiries in a way that doesn't accuse but does underline the fact that you're uncomfortable with the encounter and can defend yourself. "Does what you want from me sound fair?" "So, what do I get out of this?" and "Are you really expecting me to…?" are all questions you might ask.

State Your Position

If you believe someone is trying to influence you or is playing mind games with you, make a firm and a confident declaration stating that you will not be engaged in any connections or interactions with them if they employ dark techniques. "I'm not comfortable with where this interaction is headed," or "I don't operate this way," are two statements you might use. "I don't like the way you're handling this encounter," you might say more directly (or treating me). You're not going to be able to influence me."

Make a Decision Whether Or Not To Proceed

Finally, you must choose your next course of action. Will you offer the manipulator the choice of trying a different method to engage, or will you move on and leave the situation? You could also have to decide whether to keep the connection going or end it. You will need to base this on how the individual accepts your comments and responds to your limits because you are the only one who can determine the answers. It may be difficult to break up with someone who is a member of your family or a workplace. In this instance, you may need to keep your distance and devise a strategy for dealing with that individual.

How To Deal With Manipulators?

Here are a few top picks to help you handle people with Dark Triad traits:

Machiavellians- Make it about them. Talk to them about themselves, interest them into a conversation where you make them look good, slipping in your request in the process.

Narcissist- The best part about them is that they do not believe in concealing anything. Anything that motivates them is out in the open. Once you know what drives them, dealing with them becomes a lot easier.

Psychopaths- The primary key here is to stay patient. Psychopaths do not stay on something for a long while. Once they burn down the bridges, they move on.

In Conclusion

Conflict management, assertiveness, and emotional intelligence skills will help manage someone with Dark Triad traits. However, given the risk that these behaviors bring and their potential for causing severe destruction to an organization or individual, these behaviors must be addressed actively and vigorously to prevent any mental fallback or worse.

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