Mind & Body

Put Your Best Qualities to the Test With the Light Triad Scale

Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. Harry Potter and Voldemort. Peanut butter cups and candy corn. Life is full of good and evil, and the balance of the two is what keeps things interesting. That's why when one team of scientists noticed all the research being done on the so-called Dark Triad of personality traits — psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism — they made it their mission to score one for the good guys. As a result, they came up with the Light Triad. You can determine your own score on these virtuous traits below.

On the Sunny Side of the Street

For a study published last month in Frontiers in Psychology, Scott Barry Kaufman and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania's Positive Psychology Center pointed out that since the Dark Triad was first proposed in 2002, research into these unsavory personality traits has exploded, and hasn't exactly slowed: For instance, a full two-thirds of the publications on the Dark Triad happened in 2014 and 2015 alone. That's a problem, according to the researchers. "Too much focus on one aspect of human nature at the expense of the other misrepresents the full capacities of humanity," they wrote.

So they set out to find the Dark Triad's polar opposite. Not its exact opposite — it would be redundant just to measure how much psychopathy or narcissism a person doesn't have — but the traits that directly contrast with it. They also didn't want to overlap with any other existing personality inventories, like the Big Five (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism) or its extra-good cousin, the HEXACO Honesty-Humility factor (basically the Big Five with honesty and humility attached). They had their work cut out for them.

To come up with their Light Triad traits, they recruited more than 1,300 online participants over three studies to take a battery of personality tests, including not only the Dark Triad and the Big Five but more specific inventories like the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale and the Psychopathic Personality Inventory. They even had them play a morality game where they had to decide how much money they were willing to donate to a children's charity.

With their data collected, the researchers crunched the numbers and came up with a 12-item scale that was inspired by, but not directly opposite to, the Dark Triad scale. After analyzing the results of those items, they finally came up with three final factors. The three personality traits that ended up in the Light Triad were as follows:

  • Kantianism: Treating people as ends unto themselves, not as a mere means to an end. This one is based on Immanuel Kant's second formulation of his categorical imperative. "We thought Kantianism provided a sensible (and somewhat tongue-in-cheek) contrast to 'Machiavellianism' within the Dark Triad framework," the researchers wrote.
  • Humanism: Valuing the dignity and worth of each individual.
  • Faith in Humanity: Believing in the fundamental goodness of humans.

It's important to note that scoring high in these personality traits was only moderately negatively correlated with low scores on the Dark Triad — for instance, you could still have a healthy dose of narcissism and faith in humanity, though it's unlikely. Like we've said, the two triads aren't opposites; they're complements.

The good news? On average, people lean more toward high scores on the Light Triad than the Dark Triad. Talk about faith in humanity!

Take the Test

Want to measure your own levels of Kantianism, humanism, and faith in humanity? You can take the test on Scott Barry Kaufman's website. You'll be asked for your birth year, then you'll see a number of questions about how you view the world and the people in it. Once you answer every question, you'll see how you score not only in the three facets of the Light Triad but also the three facets of the Dark Triad.

The researchers hope that this helps to balance the scientific view of human nature. "Yes, everyday psychopaths exist," Kaufman writes in an article for Scientific American. "But so do everyday saints, and they are just as worthy of research attention and cultivation in a society that sometimes forgets that not only is there goodness in the world, but there is also goodness in each of us as well."

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Read about goodness from one of the fathers of positive psychology in "Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment" by Martin E. P. Seligman. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Ashley Hamer April 19, 2019

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