Differentiating Dark Triad Traits Within and Across Interpersonal Circumplex Surfaces

Emily A. Dowgwillo, Aaron L. Pincus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Recent discussions surrounding the Dark Triad (narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism) have centered on areas of distinctiveness and overlap. Given that interpersonal dysfunction is a core feature of Dark Triad traits, the current study uses self-report data from 562 undergraduate students to examine the interpersonal characteristics associated with narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism on four interpersonal circumplex (IPC) surfaces. The distinctiveness of these characteristics was examined using a novel bootstrapping methodology for computing confidence intervals around circumplex structural summary method parameters. Results suggest that Dark Triad traits exhibit distinct structural summary method parameters with narcissism characterized by high dominance, psychopathy characterized by a blend of high dominance and low affiliation, and Machiavellianism characterized by low affiliation on the problems, values, and efficacies IPC surfaces. Additionally, there was some heterogeneity in findings for different measures of psychopathy. Gender differences in structural summary parameters were examined, finding similar parameter values despite mean-level differences in Dark Triad traits. Finally, interpersonal information was integrated across different IPC surfaces to create profiles associated with each Dark Triad trait and to provide a more in-depth portrait of associated interpersonal dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-44
Number of pages21
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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