Apart from the many normal personality traits, some traits are unpleasant for others. There are three overlapping types of dark personality traits known as the dark triad.


The triad (i.e., group of three) consists of machivellianism, psychopathy, and narcissism.

  1. Key aspects of machivellianism

    • Manipulativeness

    • Callous affect

    • Strategic-calculating orientation

  2. Key aspects of psychopathy

    • Deficits in affect (i.e., callousness)

    • Deficits in self-control (i.e., impulsivity)

  3. Key aspects of narcissism

    • never-ending quest for ego-reinforcement

    • grandiosity

Short good video introducing the dark triad. Click here.

Professor Paulhus is well know for his research on this topic and he is the senior author on the article that describes the short dark triad scale described on this PsyToolkit webpage.

Watch this interesting talk by Professor Paulhus on dark personality traits. Click here.

If you want to know more, I highly recommend to watch the above video and read the paper in the references.

One of the problems, in general, with personality scales is that they can be quite long, which makes them less practical. A key feature of this SD3 is that it is neither too short nor too long (read the paper to learn more about this).


For this dark triad, you might be particularly interested in what is within the normal range. Scales can range from 1 to 5. Based on Professor Paulus' website, the following normal ranges are given for each of the three traits:

Trait Mean Standard Deviation Score above this is outside the normal range




> 3.86




> 3.68




> 3.40

The scores above are subclinical, that means they are not indicative of personality disorders!

Run the demo

It seems that the the SD3 can be used for research, but you need to acknowledge the authors and their research paper when writing about it (References).


This is a simple scale question with some reverse coded items.

The survey code for PsyToolkit

Copy and paste this code to your PsyToolkit account if you want to use the scale in your own online research project
scale: agree_sd3
- strongly disagree
- disagree
- neither agree nor disagree
- agree
- strongly agree

l: sd3
t: scale agree_sd3
q: Please rate your agreement or disagreement with each item
- It's not wise to tell your secrets.
- I like to use clever manipulation to get my way.
- Whatever it takes, you must get the important people on your side.
- Avoid direct conflict with others because they may be useful in the future.
- It’s wise to keep track of information that you can use against people later.
- You should wait for the right time to get back at people.
- There are things you should hide from other people because they don’t need to know.
- Make sure your plans benefit you, not others.
- Most people can be manipulated.
- People see me as a natural leader.
- {reverse} I hate being the center of attention.
- Many group activities tend to be dull without me.
- I know that I am special because everyone keeps telling me so.
- I like to get acquainted with important people.
- {reverse} I feel embarrassed if someone compliments me.
- I have been compared to famous people.
- {reverse} I am an average person.
- I insist on getting the respect I deserve.
- I like to get revenge on authorities.
- {reverse} I avoid dangerous situations.
- Payback needs to be quick and nasty.
- People often say I’m out of control.
- It’s true that I can be mean to others.
- People who mess with me always regret it.
- {reverse} I have never gotten into trouble with the law.
- I enjoy having sex with people I hardly know
- I’ll say anything to get what I want.

l: machiavellianism
t: set
- mean $sd3.1 $sd3.2 $sd3.3 $sd3.4 $sd3.5 $sd3.6 $sd3.7 $sd3.8 $sd3.9

l: narcissism
t: set
- mean $sd3.10 $sd3.11 $sd3.12 $sd3.13 $sd3.14 $sd3.15 $sd3.16 $sd3.17 $sd3.18

l: psychopathy
t: set
- mean $sd3.19 $sd3.20 $sd3.21 $sd3.22 $sd3.23 $sd3.24 $sd3.25 $sd3.26 $sd3.27

l: feedback
t: info
q: There are three subscales which can range between 1 and 5.<br>
Your scores on the dark triad scale are as follows:<br>
Score on machiavellianism subscale: {$machiavellianism}
Score on narcissim subscale: {$narcissism}
Score on psychopathy subscale: {$psychopathy}
Write down your scores and later go back to the website to interpret your scores.


  • Jones, D. N., & Paulhus, D. L. (2014). Introducing the Short Dark Triad (SD3): A brief measure of dark personality traits. Assessment, 21, 28-41.

  • Website with original scale in Word format. Click here to download.