Tuesday, November 27, 2012


The Darker the Triad, the Hotter Its Possessor

"The dark triad score was positively correlated with their 'dressed-up' attractiveness ... People with dark personalities seem to be better at making themselves physically appealing."
—In a study of 111* college students, the ones with the Darkest Triads were the best at looking good. Dark Triad beauty tutorial? 

*Itself a dark triad??

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BRB, starting my Young Adult franchise about evil, sexy high schoolers, "THE DARK TRIAD."
Three days left of Nanowrimo - I've totally got this.


@Kristen If Veronica Mars has taught me anything (and my own general public high school experience), it's that high school itself is basically 4 years of Dark Triad. There is no more narcissistic group of people than teenagers.



Judith Slutler

Wait, didn't we already cover this territory with "Get This Look: Fascists"?


In one of my psych classes in college, I remember learning about a study that showed that attractive people (or people who make themselves more attractive, like in this study) are more likely to get a "not guilty" verdict/get acquitted/avoid punishment in the first place for breaking the law. It goes along with the whole halo effect idea of pretty = nice/good. So basically, if you combine the findings of those two studies, we should really fear attractive people because they are all criminals who escaped justice.*

*Kidding aside, findings from studies related to appearance are often kind of alarming.


@olivebee Not the same, but I am straight up willing to admit that the better looking the defendant in a murder case is, the the more annoyed I am. You could have coasted on your looks to get what you wanted! MURDER IS FOR NORMALS!


@olivebee - it's a little ridiculous how often my thought process before leaving the house goes "ugh, I don't want to mess with my makeup today....but I probably should, because I will get better service at a store/restaurant, get more credit for my ideas in meetings, get the benefit of the doubt in arguments, make friends easier..." because of those such studies (and my personal experience of course, which pretty much backs them all up)


@KeLynn So very true. I've definitely noticed a pattern with how I am treated by strangers or those in the service industry depending on what I am wearing. For example, in college, I had to get my bike fixed, and I went in to the bike shop wearing a sundress. When I asked the guy how much I owed him, he said, "It's normally $20, but you can just give me $10." Something tells me he wouldn't have said that to a middle-aged man.

I'd like to be treated kindly by virtue of being a human being (because that's how I try to treat everyone else I come across in society), but I have also learned that I need to "pretty" myself up sometimes if I want certain results from a situation. Which...now that I write it out sounds a lot like manipulation. Man. It's just a vicious cycle, huh?


But how do you connect the Dark Triad score to these findings when people were just rating their appearance???


I really don't understand the jump from "positive correlation between narcissism and ability to improve one's appearance" to "narcissists are better at clothes & makeup".

Isn't it also possible that "People who are encouraged from an early age to take a more active role in choosing their wardrobe and applying makeup are more likely to develop narcissistic traits"?

Or maybe, "People who are naturally attractive (and thereby have a smaller change from before & after pics, which is what this study was looking at" are less likely to be machiavellian, because just being naturally gorgeous leads to people being nice to you so you don't need to be manipulative?

(I don't think any of these things are necessarily true, i'm just dying of boredom in my office, and wanted to whine about logic because i've been doing the boringest graphic design work all day)

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@leon s I think they're trying to say that narcissists are better and clothes and makeup as manipulative tools than those with lighter versions of the dark triad (I don't know if that's how you'd say that, I'm getting confused.)

And someone who is naturally gorgeous might be just as manipulative but not as aggressively so as someone who isn't a total babe, because the Babe-raham Lincoln is used to getting his or her way based on a dazzling smile or cinematic hair flip, so they do those things to get what they want instead of being malicious.

I was taught from an early age to take pride in my appearance, but I never paid attention to that because I was too busy climbing trees and getting angry any time my mom wanted to brush my hair. I believe narcissism can be taught, but I think the student has to be willing to learn.

(I, too, am bored.)


@leon s In part, narcissistic individuals and psychopaths are just more meticulous about their appearances. Whether that's a chicken or an egg remains unknown. Most of the research on the roots of narcissism came out in the 60s and 70s (I haven't read the stuff on psychopathy) and is a little Freud-esque, with lots of blame on Mom, and most people don't support those theories anymore. The majority of the research these days focuses on the behaviors/consequences of the Dark Triad personalities rather than how they come to be that way. I nominate Leon to research the WHY.


@leon s If you're REALLY bored I can hook you up with sixty+ pages of the history of the theory and measurement of narcissism that I had to write. RIVETING (not riveting).


But who was finding these Dark Triaders attractive? Do we have any info on the personality ratings of the people who are scoring these 111 students? That would be so fascinating to see whether dark personalities attract similar or different personalities.

fondue with cheddar

@dinos YES. Dark Triad study part two!


@fondue with cheddar Blackout Boogalloo! Electric Darkening?

Barry Grant

@dinos "But who was finding these Dark Triaders attractive?"

I'm thinking masochists.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

"The initial appeal of the narcissist or psychopath may be hard to resist. Physical attractiveness is often automatically associated with a host of other positive traits – a phenomenon known as “the halo effect.” When we perceive someone as physically attractive, we automatically assume they are also kinder, smarter, and more confident. Therefore, creating a physically attractive veneer is a highly effective way of creating an advantageous first impression. Combining physical attractiveness with confidence and humor is even more effective, and it appears that people with exploitive personalities are more successful at this as well."

This. This is what gets me in trouble with dark triad personalities. And it's sad, because I love having confident, funny and smart friends and paramours, so it's attractive to me.


@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Ugh, yes. I'm starting to think that the two people I've most recently been really infatuated with have some of the dark triad traits as well as the general funny-clever-pretty bits.


All this Dark Triad talk is just making me think of Community, with Evil Abed and the Darkest Timeline. Surely there must be a correlation between Dark Triad-ness and goatees.

Hot Doom

Yesss to a Dark Triad beauty tutorial. I really need to buttress my manipulative and exploitative tendencies with a new look.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@Hot Doom "Oh my, have you lost some humility since the last time I saw you? Your exploitation looks so great! And your manipulation! Damn girl, where have you been hiding that?"

fondue with cheddar

@Hot Doom @I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Damn, I love this site.


Uh oh, Edith spilled some of my dissertation topic onto my Hairpin.


@HeyThatsMyBike Ooh. Say more?

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@HeyThatsMyBike Yes, I agree with PPM. More info, please.


@PistolPackinMama I'm doing my dissertation on narcissism, its measurement, and the implications of narcissism in the workplace, so I've had to do a whoooooole bunch of dark triad reading! It's a pretty fascinating topic.


@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose And in short, even though I think the N here is kinda sucky/low and they only did basic correlational analyses (c'mon guys, let's see some real stats), I like that they got peer ratings on the dark triad measures. The results are not remotely shocking given this particular set of constructs (though they are still interesting!). That's not to say that people who do good makeup and such are more likely high on dark triad measurements, it's just that being really meticulous about your appearance is quite common among dark triad folks.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@HeyThatsMyBike Oh man. That sounds so interesting. From your perspective, is it possible to consciously develop a dark triad, or are they just made that way?


@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Great question - and not everyone agrees about the best answer. But I would say that folks are made that way through a healthy mix of nature/nurture. While it wouldn't be impossible to consciously/knowingly become vain and self-obsessed, it would be really difficult to just "unteach" yourself empathy and some of the other traits that extreme dark triad personalities tend to just lack [almost] completely. This is the very same reason it is so difficult to treat narcissistic personality disorder and other PDs linked to clinically high levels of psychopathy and Machiavellianism (mostly Anti-Social PD). How do you teach somebody empathy? Can you make them care more about the feelings of the people they are exploiting than their advancement toward their own end-goals? It's extremely difficult.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@HeyThatsMyBike Psychopathy is so interesting. That last question you pose is a tough one as well, because how do you know they actually care about other people's feelings instead of just pretending to in order to advance their own cause? I guess you could say the same thing about people who perform acts of charity just for the self-satisfaction of it.

Unteaching empathy would be difficult; sometimes I wish I had more dark triad traits just so I could stop feeling so many feelings all the time, but then I think about how empty that would make me feel and then I feel sad for people with dark triads. (So many feelings, ugh.)


@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Yeah, my complete inability to avoid over-empathizing and feeling all the feelings was actually what got me into this line of research - I was fascinated (mostly by way of being terrified) of people who didn't give a flying fuck about the sometimes-terrible consequences of their behavior in terms of their [negative] impact on other people. I worked with a woman who probably wouldn't be quite to the level of a diagnosis of NPD, but probably wasn't too far off either, and after about a year of trying to figure out why she was being so awful to me it just became abundantly clear to me that we didn't see the world the same way.
And yes, that is a bit of a twist on the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind treatment, eh? I think that while feeling all the feelings all the time is exhausting and sometimes painful, having your ability to experience empathy wiped would rob you of who you are and lead to a truly sad and empty existence. Like you said, you oddly end up feeling bad for the very people hurting you in these cases!

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@HeyThatsMyBike That's why I'm interested too! I can't fathom not having all these feelings all the time and it boggles my mind that people can cause emotional (and sometimes physical) chaos without feeling badly about themselves. I pretty much read everything I find on the subject, because it's so foreign and I want to understand!


@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Oooh I will look through the reading list I did for my lit review and pass on some of the good ones! I did read some books that were intended for a general audience and thus read more easily/interestingly (is that a word?) than the stuff in a lot of the psych journals.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@HeyThatsMyBike Yes, general audience reading would be awesome! I've got little-to-no psych background, so reading anything that makes casual mention of theories or their authors would throw me into a Google spiral.


@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Ok so two of the better/more interesting books I read were:
Snakes in Suits by Paul Babiak & Ned Hare (2006). These are two clinical psychologists who basically talk about corporate psychopaths
Narcissistic Leaders: Who Succeeds and Who Fails by Maccoby (2007). He has a more detached view where he's not necessarily saying that narcissistic leader are terrible people (though they often are), just indicating the behaviors that are often associated with their successes or failures.
Both have a focus on the business/work implications for these constructs, but you can easily make parallels into non-working life, too.
Another fun fact is that one of the only reasons dark triad-types will actually seek out psychological help is because their spouses/significant others have given them an ultimatum. With narcissists in particular - why would you go see a therapist when you're the most awesomest person there ever was?

Faintly Macabre

@HeyThatsMyBike Thank you for the book suggestions! I'm fascinated by psychopathy for most of the same reasons you guys are--I've always been a little unhealthily concerned about things being right/good and fair and doing good things for the right reasons. (A few months ago, my mother told me that it is definitely nature in my case, as morally upright as she and my father are. Among other things, I apparently once tried to convince her to buy a toy I didn't want because the packaging was damaged and I'd convinced myself that I had done it.)

Especially in the contect of environmental/public health protection, I find psychopathy so baffling and frightening--how do you convince or fight someone who has no moral scruples to appeal to (destroying poor people's water supplies and lying about it is bad? Why?) or keep them from playing dirtier than you ever would? But like you both, it also seems like an awful, hollow way of living. Though I suppose they'd say something similar about being too caring or moral.


Interestingly, Simone de Beauvoir says that vain women are better equipped to deal with aging.

fondue with cheddar

@Lucienne I don't understand how that could be true.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@fondue with cheddar They're better at denial?

fondue with cheddar

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Maybe. Or perhaps they just have the makeup skills that women like me don't have. When I get old I'm going to look old because I don't know how to make myself look better.

I decided that I will be one of those old ladies who wears outrageously colorful eyeglasses. That will brighten up my gray hair and old face!

Faintly Macabre

@fondue with cheddar I don't know if this is what Lucienne is referring to, but in The Second Sex, she says that intellectual women often kind of ignore or discount their youth and beauty until they begin to age, at which point they sometimes go into a bit of a crisis or at least are far behind vain women in making the most of their changing looks.

Or something mostly like that--it's been a while and I'm really tired, so any incoherence is my fault, not de Beauvoir's!


@Faintly Macabre Yeah, that's it. The subtext is that vain women are better are recognizing the work that goes into making themselves beautiful (so, immanence) and women who don't care when they're young and pretty don't have the same resources to deal with the changes that come when they stop being young and pretty.

fondue with cheddar

@Faintly Macabre That makes sense!

Shit...I'm one of those women who is going to go into a crisis soon. I'm 38, and pretty soon I'm going to have to start putting more care into my appearance if I don't want to look like crap. But I don't know what to dooooo and also don't want to bother. I hope I don't care. But I might! I probably will.


So...it's a good thing that I rarely wear makeup and pretty much always wear ratty jeans, then?


Yes! My reluctance to shower or brush my hair is just altruism!

fondue with cheddar

@Ophelia @NeverOddOrEven Yes...yes, I like the way you think. We may be lazy and/or sloppy, but it's only because we're paragons of virtue!

the angry little raincloud

This certainly applies the most evil man I know. Total narcissist, total asshole, always extremely well dressed and turned out. Strip that all away: a void. [And he excelled at that, too: dark sucking void of soul-destroying evil.]

Unrelatedly: Bobbi Brown's Red Carpet lipstick is really pretty.


AGAIN. I will never care about a study that uses college students to represent the general population.

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