Dark triad personality traits are those associated with narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. These are usually seen as negative characteristics, but people have the ability to capitalise on traits like confidence, grandiosity, and entitlement — you just have to know how to do it in the right way.
Narcissists, in particular, have a heightened sense of self-worth and tend to look down on everyone else around them. Their sense of superiority doesn't make them particularly nice to hang out with, but it does make them pretty successful.
That's according to psychologist Kostas Papageorgiou, from Queen's University Belfast, who told the BBC how research has found that narcissists are often socially successful, undeterred by rejection, charming, and highly motivated.
While they are also self-centered, vain, and callous, Papageorgiou said narcissists can be seen as very successful as their traits give them a "mental toughness," meaning they don't give up easily.
"If you are a narcissist, you believe strongly that you are better than anyone else and that you deserve reward," he said.
Papageorgiou and a team from Goldsmiths, the University of London, King's College London, University of Texas at Austin and Manchester Metropolitan University, studied a group of narcissists to see if they could overtake people who seemingly had more ability than them in exams.
They recruited 300 young narcissists in a secondary school in Italy and found they tended to score higher in exams than would be expected from their previous work and measures of intelligence.
As well as their massive ego, narcissists were also resilient and determined. They weren't smarter, but their confidence meant they managed to outperform other students.
Papageorgiou told the BBC that narcissists are "absolutely destructive for those around them," but their charisma also makes them magnetic to other people, which can make them seem more attractive. The infatuation isn't likely to last long term though, as narcissists tend to idealise people, then devalue them, and eventually discard them.
In terms of career success, though, dark triad personalities do thrive in certain environments. For example, there are certain jobs that attract psychopaths, such as surgery and sales.
There are high numbers of dark triad personality types in CEO positions too, mostly because they have a cool head under pressure, and have something called a "resilience to chaos."
Dark triad people may purposefully create chaos in the environment because they find it easier to cope than other people. Or they might simply be better able to deal with stressful situations when they arise.
Either way, Papageorgiou said personality traits shouldn't be seen as categorically good or bad. Rather, they are a result of evolution, and mere "expressions of human nature," he said.
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