Factor D, the dark side of personality

Factor D, the dark side of personality

For the more moviegoers, the single act of humming "The Imperial March" already evokes the appearance of a character as evil and dark as Darth Vader. Without a doubt, one of the most feared but charismatic villains of the Star Wars saga and cinema in general. A character with a black outfit from top to bottom and a hoarse and mechanical voice. Darth Vader didn't seem to show any sign of mercy ... did he? This character is a clear example of someone with a high score in Factor D. Factor D? Yes, that's what the "dark" side of the personality has been called.

However, we don't have to go to science fiction to find characters with high scores in the "Factor D". Roman emperors such as Caligula, Nero or Caracalla showed cruel behavior towards their citizens and relatives. Just like the Romanian prince Vlad Tepes, who they say is inspiring the character of Dracula. If we look back at history (and not so far back), we will find a large number of figures whose behaviors have stood out more in terms of their evils than goodnesses.


  • 1 What is Factor D?
  • 2 Characteristics of individuals with high "Factor D"
  • 3 The common core of "Factor D"
  • 4 Results of investigations
  • 5 Final reflection

What is the D Factor?

Over the years, different authors have questioned our darker side. What pushes us to do evil? What hides behind our most sinister side? Many have been those who have investigated on our darkest side and many have been the results obtained. However, to date, the most prominent and recent article on "Factor D" is that of researchers Ingor Zetller, Morten Moshagen and Benjamin Higuin (2018), entitled "The Dark Core of Personaliny" (The dark core of personality).

The name comes from the English term "dark", that is, "dark" and hence "Factor D". But what are we talking about when we refer to the "Dark Personality Factor"? "Factor D" is related to those unscrupulous, evil and selfish behaviors in moral, ethical and social aspects. Behaviors that can occur both political, business or in our day to day with people close to us.

Zetller, Moshagen and Higuin (2018), state that dark features "are, by definition, necessarily related. In fact, to consider a dark feature as such it must have undesirable and problematic tendencies". The authors say that these types of traits are not possessed in isolation, but that the one who presents one of them usually has more.

Seuntjens, Zeelenberg, van de Ven and Breugelmans (2015), affirm that the high levels of "Factor D" have been associated with more selfish and unfair decisions in economic and social aspects. Zetller, Moshagen and Higuin (2018), define as one of the central aspects of this factor, "the tendency to maximize oneself - ignoring and provoking in an evil way the uselessness of others - accompanied by beliefs that justify their behaviors ".

Characteristics of individuals with high "Factor D"

Individuals with high levels of "Factor D", in general, maximize their personal capacity at the expense of others. In this sense, they can use those around them for their own benefit. So much for economic gains, as to feel superior or to obtain pleasure or enjoyment. An important feature is that the search for their own well-being is above the interests of others. That is to say, those with a high "D" score feel indifference towards others as long as they achieve their goals.

"The lightness with which the wicked believe that everything will work out for them is strange."

-Victor Hugo-

On the other hand, they can also refrain from doing something to avoid benefiting others. The bottom line is the same, hurting someone, but in this case it would be through "no action". Although his actions are not always so negative, they are able to cooperate with others, yes, as long as the goal benefits them too.

Those with very high "Factor D" scores may even hurt others physically if necessary. They can cheat to achieve their goals and / or exploit those around them. Benefit others without benefiting themselves does not enter into their plans, and neither do they obtain happiness through the achievement of others.

Summary of the main features

  • Use of others for their own benefit.
  • Behaviors that can affect others negatively
  • Avoid behaviors that benefit peers.
  • Competitors.
  • Selfish.
  • Egocentric
  • Traits of sadism (get pleasure watching as others fail and / or suffer).
  • They will always have justification for their behaviors.
  • They are considered superior.
  • They consider others as inferior
  • They usually support ideologies that favor domination.
  • They believe that on a general level everyone thinks of themselves as they do.

The common core of "Factor D"

Does "Factor D" cover all the negative characteristics of an individual? M. Back's team proposes that a dark feature may imply characteristics that go beyond "D". Back and his team (2013) postulate that, for example, "The defining characteristics of narcissism include a sense of superiority, as well as dominant and aggressive behavior towards others, but it also implies a need for social admiration". In this case, it seems that narcissism would go beyond "D" and would be a unique feature of this disorder.

"Evil is only in your mind and not in the external. The pure mind always sees only the good in everything, but the bad is responsible for inventing evil."


However, the debate on the actor "Factor D" seems not to remain in a concrete definition. But it goes beyond. Zetller, Moshagen and Higuin (2018) state that "D represents the underlying general trend from which dark features arise as specific manifestations, which implies that D is responsible for the dark spots in common between several dark features and, therefore, represents their common core".

In this way, the "Factor D" would represent a core from which all those dark aspects that characterize us would start. Zetller, Moshagen and Higuin (2018), again affirm that "D manifests itself in a very large number of ethical, moral and socially questionable attitudes and behaviors, and therefore, can be measured in many different ways.".

Results of the investigations

Zetller, Moshagen and Higuin (2018), carried out different studies to deepen the "Dark Personality Factor". The conclusions were several. One of the first findings was that "Factor D" is a common nucleus and a fluid construct independent of any particular trait. That is, "D" is a very broad factor that would cover all the dark features of the person.

Another conclusion is that "Factor D" can be taken as a predictor of a large number of questionable behaviors in ethical, moral and social fields. In different studies, they obtained emerged as a unique factor underlying a diverse set of dark features such as: selfishness, Machiavellianism, narcissism, psychopathy, sadism, self-interest and regret. "D" represented an important aspect in selfish and unethical behavior. At the same time, he solidly predicted aspects such as aggression, dominance, impulsivity, insensitivity, power and egocentrism.

"Individuals with a high" D "score may be willing to pay money to see others suffer".

-Zetller, Moshagen and Higuin-

Without doubt, another of the conclusions of these researchers is disturbing. A high "D" score can predict that individuals are able to reduce those behaviors that provide them with a high status or economic level in favor of negatively affecting others. That is, you are willing to lose money or status if it negatively affects others as this will provide them with pleasure and joy.

High scores on the "Factor D" can also be predictors of:

  • Greater impulsivity
  • Greater lack of compliance with the law and rules.
  • Lack of self-control and especially when it comes to another.
  • People less sociable, more anxious, irritable and in a bad mood.
  • Dishonest and deceitful behaviors, through the justification of their superiority or right.
  • Support of ideologies that favor dominance.
  • Thought that everyone else also seeks self-interest over others.

Final reflection

Without a doubt, the "Factor D", at least, is disturbing. However, it is a fundamental aspect to study in the human being. From psychology, this type of behavior is a challenge, so it is a challenge for this discipline. Knowing what is hidden behind a mind that can cause so much damage, would serve to draw educational guidelines that prevent this type of behavior.

On the other hand, it would also allow to work better with those people with a high "D" index. Although one might wonder if they really possess any kind of desire to change their behavior. So, how to deal with these types of individuals? What to do to prevent its appearance? How to make them see that their behaviors are highly harmful to others and to themselves? Gradually, with time and research, psychology will shed more light on our darker side.


  • Back, M., Küfner, A., Dufner, M., Gerlach, T., Rauthmann, J., and Denissen, J. (2013). Narcissistic admiration and rivalry: Disentangling the bright and dark sides of
    narcissism Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105, 1013-1037.
  • Moshagen, M., Hilbig, B. E., & Zettler, I. (2018). The dark core of personality. Psychological Review, 125 (5).
  • Seuntjens, T., Zeelenberg, M., van de Ven, N., and Breugelmans, S. M. (2015). Dispositional greed. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 108, 917-933.
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