By | October 1, 2018 4 Comments

‘Dark core of personality’ — what antisocials, psychopaths, sadists and other miscreants have in common

man in maskIs the disordered person in your life antisocial, narcissistic, borderline, psychopathic — or perhaps even Machiavellian or a sadist?

You may have struggled to figure out which definition applies, perhaps reasoning that a narcissist isn’t as bad as a psychopath. In reality, all of these disorders are bad news — people who have them engage in similar destructive behavior.

Now, research from Europe shows that all of these disorders share a common denominator. In a paper called The Dark Core of Personality, Ingo Zettler, a psychology professor at the University of Copenhagen, and two German colleagues, define the “D-factor” at the dark core. They write:

All dark traits can be traced back to the general tendency of placing one’s own goals and interests over those of others even to the extent of taking pleasure in hurting others — along with a host of beliefs that serve as justifications and thus prevent feelings of guilt, shame, or the like. The research shows that dark traits in general can be understood as instances of this common core:

  • Egoism: an excessive preoccupation with one’s own advantage at the expense of others and the community

  • Machiavellianism: a manipulative, callous attitude and a belief that the ends justify the means

  • Moral disengagement: cognitive processing style that allow behaving unethically without feeling distress

  • Narcissism: excessive self-absorption, a sense of superiority, and an extreme need for attention from others

  • Psychological entitlement: a recurring belief that one is better than others and deserves better treatment

  • Psychopathy: lack of empathy and self-control, combined with impulsive behaviour

  • Sadism: a desire to inflict mental or physical harm on others for one’s own pleasure or to benefit oneself

  • Self-interest: a desire to further and highlight one’s own social and financial status

  • Spitefulness: destructiveness and willingness to cause harm to others, even if one harms oneself in the process


Read more:

Psychologists define the ‘dark core of personality on


Lovefraud has long used the term “sociopath” as an umbrella term for people who have any of the various exploitative personality disorders, particularly antisocial, narcissistic and borderline personality disorders, and psychopathy. Here is the rationale:

Naming the social predators among us, on

Lovefraud periodically catches grief for this. I’ve been told that I’m using the wrong terminology — sociopath is the old term, and the current term is antisocial personality disorder.

Actually, Lovefraud uses the term “sociopath” as it was originally defined back in 1930.

At that time, a psychologist named George E. Partridge coined the word “sociopathy,” and suggested it would be an accurate term for people who are socially maladjusted and motivated towards behavior that adversely affects others. Partridge wrote, “We may use the term ‘sociopathy’ to mean anything deviated or pathological in social relations.”

The American Psychiatric Association created a diagnosis of “sociopathic personality disturbance” in 1952. But in 1968, the diagnosis was replaced with “antisocial personality disorder.” Today, the term “sociopath” is no longer an official clinical diagnosis for any psychological disorder.

But this most recent research confirms the validity of identifying a category of people who are exploiters and manipulators. Yes, they do all engage in similar behavior — but their precise traits and degrees malevolence vary.

In order to educate the world that people like these exist, a name is needed to describe them. Lovefraud uses “sociopath.” It’s probably more descriptive than calling them a “D-factor.”

Story suggested by a Lovefraud reader.

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Donna, I agree with you wholeheartedly. Too many terms and definitions would just muddy the issue.


This article is on point, and I was glad to see this research was getting attention (I first saw a link to it in my Google feed). I wish the DSM committee would listen. There is a lot of education of mental health professionals needed, because predators easily fool professionals too, but it does not have to be this way. Thank you Donna Andersen.


free2be – agree! The average therapist is a waste of time and is totally clueless. It takes multiple degrees and decades of experience to be able to assess these situations. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time and lots of money.


Thank you Donna! For sticking to your guns 😀

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