Craftsmen. Providers. Performers. Psychologists have tried to classify humans into various personality types for decades, in an effort to understand what makes us tick. But of all of these personality types, which is the most dangerous?
Click start to play today’s Spell It, where you can find a trait that plays a huge role in this question – “empathy”.
The answer has still not been fully explored by researchers around the world, but psychologists say the answer points clearly to one group so far – people who exhibit dark empathy.
According to a February 2021 study published in the Netherlands-based journal Personality and Individual Differences, the dark empath exhibits the “dark triad” cluster of personality traits – Machiavellianism (manipulativeness, callousness and indifference to morality), psychopathy, and narcissism (an inflated sense of self). But added to this already potent cocktail of traits is the fact that dark empaths are able to understand others’ emotions – they have empathy – and are, therefore, more emotionally dangerous.
Empathy has long been associated with positive outcomes. For instance, hearing someone’s joy makes us want to support them, and seeing someone in pain draws out a reaction where we’d want to help them or ease their sorrows.
But in the case of dark empaths, they experience cognitive empathy – the ability to understand someone’s emotional state – and do not necessarily connect it to an emotional, positive response. So, they’re able to draw people close to them, and to cause more harm and suffering than would have been possible.
So, how do you recognise someone with this kind of personality?
There are a few traits that mark them out. Dark empaths are not aggressive or violent in a physical sense, but are emotionally manipulative masterminds, often having higher degrees of malicious humour and the ability to guilt others into doing something they don’t want to do. They also like to gossip, bully others, and use gaslighting and charm to manipulate people close to them.