WORDS: 636 — To any of my readers who have had any sort of psych classes in college, one might recognize the title of this post as being the three elements of anti-social behavior.. also referred to as the “Dark Triad”. Sounds ominous, and it rather is in a profound way when rating political power mongers… past and present. Actually, it’s good practice to shy away from a potential mate if they exhibit any of these traits. But that’s a whole other avenue.
So, what is The Dark Triad?
A set of three elements of behaviors that tend to spawn, in the political world, the more edgy kind of leadership. In other words, dictators and others who are determined to achieve power for the sake of power and personal satisfaction. This does not mean any one person must exhibit all three of these elements, but rather can exhibit only one. A brief definition of these terms is below (per Wiki)…
- Narcissism is characterized by grandiosity, pride, egotism, and a lack of empathy.
- Machiavellianism is characterized by manipulation and exploitation of others, an absence of morality, unemotional callousness, and a higher level of self interest.
- Psychopathy is characterized by continuous antisocial behavior, impulsivity, selfishness, callous and unemotional traits (CU), and remorselessness.
(OF NOTE: Canadian psychologist, Romeo Vitelli, Ph.D., in an article for Psychology Today, notes a fourth element, Sadism, could be added thus suggesting a “Dark Tetrad” rather than a “Dark Triad”. But for the sake of this post we shall stick with the primary three. )
Years ago, in another life, I did a research paper on “The Dark Triad” as it referred to historical figures. Those were the years before any of the political leaders of today were even a twinkle in fate’s eye. The more glaring examples of the day was Herr Hitler from the (somewhat) recent past, Kim Jong-il, Fidel Castro, Mao Zedong, and Uganda’s Idi Amin. We had no presidents up to that point to cite as an example… but people who might fall into any or all of these three behaviors can be part of fictional characterizations. Hollywood characters like “Gordon Gekko” (Wall Street), “J.R. Ewing” (Dallas), “Frank Underwood” (House of Cards), “James Bond“, “Sherlock Holmes“, “Hannibal Lecter“. Real life political personages.. well.. Mr. Putin, Mr. Trump, Mr. Lukashenko of Belarus, Mr. Kim Jong-un of North Korea, and Mr. Xi Jinping of China, are more notable on the international scene.
And Why Does Any Of This Matter?
Well, the present day, already-in-progress, attempt by Russia to decapitate Ukraine was started by dictator Putin. Not everyone is against Putin’s policies. Then we have Trump… the subject of many of us bloggers in trying to identify the reasons people follow his idiocy and corrupted social morals. The other world leaders on the list, Xi and Kim and Lukashenko, also belong to the same club of power mongers for personal gain that somehow made it to power. The idea here is that they all have in common a behavioral affinity to subscribe to one or more of those three Triad elements. This helps us to understand a little better why many people choose to follow these guys, and maybe build a strategy to get around it.
To better understand all this I encourage the reader to check out this CNN Reality Check by John Avlon. Political scientist & author Brian Klaas says ‘strongmen’ leaders like Vladimir Putin and Trump activate a template in the human brain, causing many to gravitate toward them. It’s well worth the 9 minute view. https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2022/02/24/strongmen-leaders-sociopaths-putin-research-reality-check-orig.cnn
As to what makes seemingly aware and educated and even successful people side with the likes of a Trump… well, seems it’s partly to do with evolution. Keep in mind the infinite independent diversity of mankind that dictates the people we become later in life. Perhaps the old idiom.. nature vs. nurture.