D Is for Evil: The Dark Factor of Personality

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D Is for Evil: The Dark Factor of Personality

The characteristic of an individual with high levels of D is will do whatever it takes to get what they desire, even others get harmed while they are trying to reach their objective. / Photo by: Ion Chiosea via 123rf


Evil people’s characteristics have a unifying theme, three European researchers theorized. Morten Moshagen from Ulm University, Benjamin Hilbig from the University of Koblenz-Landau, and Ingo Zettler from the University of Copenhagen proposed that these common traits that these people have is called the General Dark Factor of Personality. This is also known as the D or the D-Factor.

The authors of the study which focuses on the D argue that malevolence can be assessed in the same way that intelligence is measured. They had based their study on Charles Spearman’s concept of the g-factor or the general factor of intelligence. The g-factor explains that if a person has a high score on one type of intelligence test, they will also have high scores on other types of intelligence tests. In the same way, Moshagen and his research team discovered that those who scored highly on one dark trait also scored highly on other dark traits.


What Is the Dark Factor of Personality (D)?

Moshagen and his co-authors define the Dark Factor of Personality as, “the basic tendency to maximize one’s own utility at the expense of others, accompanied by beliefs that serve as justifications for one’s malevolent behaviors.”

In other words, individuals with high levels of D will do whatever it takes to get what they desire, even others get harmed while they are trying to reach their objective. Their objective may also include specifically hurting others. People with the D-factor would not help anyone or try to contribute to their success unless they were sure it would benefit them. They are only concerned about their own well-being or if something good happens to them.


Characteristics of D

According to the Big Think, the nine characteristics of the D personality include:


An individual with this trait is callous and wants to have control over others. People with this characteristic desire to manipulate and deceive others for their own interests.


This means that the person only deeply cares about their own pleasure or advantage, even at other people’s expense.

Moral disengagement

This is described as a cognitive orientation wherein an individual does not have any regard for the world’s morals or ethics.


It is a characteristic which is explained as having extreme feelings of superiority together with a sense of entitlement. People with this trait belief that it is their right to abuse others to achieve their goal or to get what they want.

Psychological Entitlement

Someone who has this trait feels that they deserve to have more than everyone else. They also believe that they should be given special treatment.


Someone with this trait has low empathy and is very impulsive.


One of the Dark factors of Personality (D) is psychopathy. / Photo by: Cebotari Nicolai via 123rf



If a person has this characteristic, this means they are motivated by revenge. They will go at lengths to be able to see others get what they think those who wronged them deserve, even if carrying out that revenge hurts them in the process.


This means that an individual desires to acquire materials or positions that are socially valued such as academic or occupational achievement, material goods, recognition, social status or their own happiness.


Sadistic people are those who get pleasure from hurting others physically or psychologically. They enjoy humiliating others and constantly engage in cruel and demeaning behavior.


Factors of the D

Psychology Today states that there are three factors that contribute to the Dark Factor of Personality:

Utility maximization

This means that a person will do everything to get their desired outcome. They will say anything or do anything as long as it means that they will be able to have what they want.

Inflicting disutility in others

If people get in the way of their goals, people who have high levels of D will intentionally inflict pain on them or upset them or try to physically harm them.

Justifying malevolent beliefs

Individuals who have the D personality will justify their malevolent actions or harmful behavior by saying that they are superior to others or that they are entitled to do those abusive and demeaning behaviors.



How to Measure the Level of D

The Dark Core Scale was invented to be able to measure how high their level of the D is. Scott Barry Kaufman, author of The Dark Core of Personality, made a condensed version of the scale which is composed of nine statements. Their score will depend on the number of statements they agree with. These statements include:

1. It is hard to get ahead without cutting corners here and there.

2. I like to use clever manipulation to get my way.

3. People who get mistreated have usually done something to bring it on themselves.

4. I know that I am special because everyone keeps telling me so.

5. I honestly feel I’m just more deserving than others.

6. I’ll say anything to get what I want.

7. Hurting people would be exciting.

8. I try to make sure others know about my successes.

9. It is sometimes worth a little suffering on my part to see others receive the punishment they deserve.


Scott Barry Kaufman, the author of the Dark Core of Personality, made a condensed version of the Dark Core Scale and one of the statements is An individual likes to use clever manipulation to get their way. / Photo by: Katarzyna Białasiewicz via 123rf


Further Research Needed on the D

Dr. Mark Leary, the Garonzik Family Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University, says that are more aspects of the D personality that needs to be investigated. He suggests that future researchers what causes certain individuals not to care about others and even purposefully hurt them. He also urges researchers to find out if it is possible to lessen the society’s selfishness, which is usually the main cause of problems and reason why people are in pain, as a whole. Lastly, he encourages researchers to find ways to reduce the prevalence of this toxic personality.



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