The D Factor

The Dark Triad

selfishnessIt was once considered good enough to call someone a psychopath or a narcissist if you wanted to say he was bad or wicked enough to condemn him or her. But human nature, being what it is, nothing is so simple that it can’t be made more complicated. Psychopathy (or Anti-Social Personality Disorder) and Narcissism were part of Cluster B but that wasn’t good enough. Something called The Dark Triad needed to be invoked. Psychopathy and Narcissism were joined by Machiavellianism to make the triad. But someone has now set out to simplify things again and reduce the Dark Triad to one trait.  Katie Heany has said, If You Have One of These Dark Personality Traits, You Have them All.

white wooden chess king on wooden chessboard closeupThe study’s authors argue this overlap is because all nine dark personality traits share the same dark “core,” which — I’m not kidding — they call “the D-factor.” The, uh, D-factor is defined as “the general tendency to maximize one’s individual utility — disregarding, accepting, or malevolently provoking disutility for others — accompanied by beliefs that serve as justifications.” Though each dark personality trait varies in expression and severity, all nine rely on personal gain as one’s primary concern.

So the whole thing can be boiled down to selfishness? The Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised lists 20 traits. Perhaps the one trait for psychopaths should be optimism and the penticostcrossbelief in happy outcomes. Kevin Dutton mentioned our optimism in Psychopath Night, the TV show on the UK’s channel 4. Ayn Rand believed in the universe being fundamentally benevolent and life being about happiness rather than suffering. I think this kind of “up” view of life can go together with number 8 of the PCL-R, Callousness and Lack of Empathy. We can identify with joy or sorrow. There are powerful arguments toward either. Catholicism is very much identified with suffering. The crucifix with the crucified Christ on it is very much favored with that church. Some evangelical churches identify with optimism. Their symbol is a stylized cross, sometimes with the Holy Spirit bird over it. Some of these churches are identified with prosperity. While both kinds of churches worship Christ, they each focus on a very different side of the story, which is, come to think of it, the different sides of life itself.

Lestat_from_The_Vampire_ChroniclesPeople who are happy and selfish (maybe vulgar and superficial) are often more fun to be around. People who are full of empathy are the sort one wants to find when one is in need of this trait. I’m thinking of Anne Rice’s novel, Tale of the Body Thief. The hero, Lestat, is conned by a mortal with whom he exchanges bodies. As a mortal once more, Lestat finds himself penniless and ill. A woman nurses him back to health. Later, once he is again a vampire, Lestat runs into her. From his new perspective, this almost saintly woman seems narrow and boring. Just saying.

5 thoughts on “The D Factor

  1. Despite recent criticism by the proponents of “Behavioral Economics” (which seeks to take into account our less than perfectly rational decision processes), the core of economic theory continues to be exactly that Maximization of Individual Utility. So Homo Economicus is a universally psychopathic species? Hmmmmm …


      1. That seems to me a rational calculation. America continues to suffer under the myth of a “classless society”, or only one class, “Middle”, whether one is working for minimum wage serving burgers, or CEO of a hedge fund. That does not serve well the interests of all.

        Liked by 1 person

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