The Dark Triad and facets of personality

  • Christopher Marcin KowalskiEmail author
  • Philip A. Vernon
  • Julie Aitken Schermer


This study investigates the Dark Triad in relation to the Big Five facets and the putative redundancy of Machiavellianism and psychopathy. A sample of 442 participants completed measures of narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy, as well as the Big Five. Bivariate correlations and multivariate regression analyses with age, sex, and facets of the Big Five as predictors of each dark trait were examined. We found that 13 of the correlations between the Big Five facets and Machiavellianism and psychopathy differed significantly (p < .01; z values ranging from −3.61 to −3.77 and 2.36 to 4.99). Specifically, the relationships between Machiavellianism and anxiety, depression, self-consciousness, vulnerability, assertiveness, excitement-seeking, values, straightforwardness, compliance, modesty, dutifulness, and deliberation differed significantly from the relationships of psychopathy and these facets. Moreover, Machiavellianism and psychopathy differed in terms of their Big Five facet predictors. Of the Big Five facets, psychopathy was independently predicted by excitement-seeking, straightforwardness, altruism, and compliance, facets purported to underlie psychopathy (O’Boyle et al. Journal of Personality, 83, 644–664, 2015). Machiavellianism, on the other hand, was independently predicted by self-consciousness, fantasy, values, trust, and straightforwardness. Narcissism was independently predicted by assertiveness, fantasy, ideas, and modesty. Future research is needed to further clarify these differences, and future directions on how to further the Dark Triad redundancy debate are discussed.


Dark triad Big five facets Narcissism Machiavellianism Psychopathy 



The present study was not preregistered. Data is available upon request.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Declaration of Conflicting Interests

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee (University of Western Ontario Non-Medical Research Ethics Board) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher Marcin Kowalski
    • 1
    Email author
  • Philip A. Vernon
    • 1
  • Julie Aitken Schermer
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada
  2. 2.Management and Organizational Studies, Faculty of Social ScienceThe University of Western OntarioLondonCanada

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