One Personality Trait Tempers the Dark Triad

Research shows how to mitigate Machiavellianism, narcissism and psychopathy.

Grant H Brenner
6 min readMar 25, 2022


Photo by KoolShooters from Pexels

Is there anything about your personality you’d like to change? Work on the Big Five personality traits of extraversion, conscientiousness, neuroticism (low neuroticism is equivalent to “ emotional stability”), agreeableness, and openness to experience shows that when asked, the majority of people (over 85 percent) would like to change one or more traits for the better, according to Nathan Hudson in the Journal of Personality (2022).

This shows a level of insight and desire to change present in most of us. In fact, research has found that when people pick traits they want to change, and practice behaviors aligned with those traits on a regular basis [1], they show statistically significant progress over the course of a four-month study.

However, the Big Five personality model does not account for the Dark Triad of Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy, although there is a correlation with higher agreeableness and reduced Dark Traits overall.

It is expected that people higher on the Dark Triad will not want to change, in spite of the many negatives associated with these traits, because, by definition, the triad involves reduced empathy plus lack of awareness that there is a problem (anosognosia), combined with a sense of superiority over and separateness from other, lesser beings. “Why would I want to change that?” often covers up insecurity, shame, and an impaired sense of self.

Acknowledging a desire or need to change-acknowledging that there is a problem-is not easy with that mindset. Often, however, people are forced to change, either because of failed relationships, health problems, or professional demands, as they encounter obstacles to growth that can no longer be attributed to external factors.

How Could Being Less Darkly Triadic Help People?

Rationally, there are many reasons to want to reduce Dark Triadism, despite the emotional and psychological benefits of avoiding recognition of the the effect of those traits on oneself and others.



Grant H Brenner

Psychiatrist, Psychoanalyst, Entrepreneur, Writer, Speaker, Disaster Responder, Advocate, Photographer