Welcome To The Light Side
Psychologies|January 2020
Welcome To The Light Side
The dark triad of negative personality traits, which includes narcissism, gets a lot of airtime – but does it skew our view of humanity? Suzy Bashford learns about a contrasting measure, the light triad
An obsession with the dark side of life is human nature – which is why so many of us binge-watch crime dramas. After all, we’re hardwired to scan the horizon for threats to our survival, a negativity bias that has successfully got us, as a race, alive and well to 2020.

However, in the modern world, threats to our safety are no longer sabre-toothed tigers but mostly other humans. This could in part explain why, particularly over the last few years, we have been inundated by psychological insights on how to spot people who display deeply negative characteristics which make up the dark triad: narcissism (typically associated with excessive selfishness and self-interest, a sense of entitlement and need for adulation), psychopathy (amoral and antisocial behaviour, egocentricity and an inability to love or have genuine relationships) and Machiavellianism (exploitation of others for our own ends, cunning, deceitfulness and dishonesty).

Danger, danger

You can’t pass a news stand without spotting a couple of headlines asking ‘Is there a narcissist in your life?’ or ‘Ways to tell if your partner is a psychopath’. There is a cacophony of advice, covering everything from ‘Can dark triad traits be detected in someone’s face?’ to ‘Why dark triad men are so attractive’.

As we pore over these quizzes and checklists, we ask who we know with these traits, ticking off annoying relatives, politicians and ex-boyfriends. Worse still, we ask if we have these traits and worry about a flicker of recognition.

But have we been focusing too much on the dark side? Psychologist and researcher Scott Barry Kaufman says we have, which is why he set out to balance the dark triad by creating the light triad. His is the first piece of psychological research that aims to measure a person’s dark and light characteristics.


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January 2020