7 Signs of A Dark Tetrad Personality

Hi Psych2Goers, this article is for informative purposes only. Do not use this to diagnose yourself or others. As always, reach out if you’re struggling to a trusted person.

We can all think of people throughout our lives that have done bad things. Maybe you’ve witnessed someone (or yourself) fall victim to manipulation. Perhaps you’ve seen someone act selfishly and disregard the wants and needs of others. You may even have witnessed someone who takes pleasure in other people’s suffering. These are all unfortunate and toxic behaviors that hurt others. They are shocking tendencies that are not just isolated instances, rather they’re personality traits. Specifically, dark personality traits. Over the years, psychologists have noticed patterns and have narrowed down these human tendencies to four categories, known as the “dark tetrad.” In this article, we’ll be exploring the tetrad and seven signs to look out for.

So, What Is the Dark Tetrad?

The dark tetrad is an evolution of the dark triad: narcissism, psychopathy, and machiavellianism. Adding to this list, is sadism. These four traits are believed to serve as the core of humanity’s dark side. Each trait is believed to be tied with one another, meaning that one who shows one side of the tetrad, is likely to show another. Each of the four traits are defined by the following:

  • Narcissism: Egocentrism and need for admiration.
  • Psychopathy: Lacking empathy and regard to ethics.
  • Machiavelliansim: Manipulative and feelings of entitlement. 
  • Sadism: Desire to hurt others mentally, emotionally, and/or physically.

(Source: Hammond 2019)

With that said, here are seven signs of a dark tetrad personality:

1. They Have Extremely Selfish Behaviors 

A person who scores high narcissism will put their own self interest before others. They don’t take how others feel into consideration. They’ll take anything that they feel will benefit them first. Whether it’s fame, prestige, or wealth, they don’t want to share it with anyone else but themselves (University of Copenhagen 2018).

2. They Lack Empathy

Lacking empathy is a huge factor in the tetrad. People in this category tend to have little regard for the feelings of others. They really don’t care about what another person is going through and have no remorse in taking advantage of them. Combining the low empathy and self-centerdness, they feel the rest of the world doesn’t matter and their selfish behavior puts their own feelings ahead of others, no matter the situation (Dodgson 2018).

3. They Try to Spite You

When a person with the dark tetrad doesn’t get their way, they can resort to nasty tactics to get back at you. They are willing to go out of their way to harm another person in any way as revenge. Their selfishness, entitlement, and lack of ethics allows them to get back at others without guilt (University of Copenhagen 2018). 

4. They Feel Entitled

In causing so much damage to others, those with the dark tetrad won’t care. In fact, they feel that their actions are justified. With their selfish nature and lack of empathy, they feel that it’s alright to use and abuse others for their own gain. They cannot accept responsibility or feel remorse for their actions, because deep down they feel that they’re truly in the right (University of Copenhagen 2018).

5. They Are Manipulative

Manipulative people use others as means to their ends; they don’t care about what the other person wants or feels, they just want the end result. They tend to act more calculated and show no remorse for their actions and may resort to actions that cause extreme psychological, emotional, or physical strain on others in order to get their desired outcome (Mind Tools 2020).

6. They Take Pleasure in Causing Pain

A sadistic person finds enjoyment at the expense of others. They may act physically, verbally, or emotionally violent in direct or indirect ways. While other signs such as manipulation may appear similar, sadism is different in the sense that the cruel act is fascinating in of itself. Whereas manipulation hurts others; the inflicted pain is a by-product for the manipulator to get what they want. In sadism, the suffering is the reward. People with this trait enjoy hurting others for the simple sake of hurting others (Emamzadeh 2019). 

7. They Are Unethical

If a person has such little regard for others, they put themselves first in any situation, and they use people to their advantage, it is also likely that they don’t care much about right and wrong. They may lack a conscience, which allows them to manipulate, hurt, and belittle others without any shame. They simply don’t care how they’re hurting others, just what they’re gaining (Hammond 2019). 

The dark tetrad is scary for everyone involved. People with these traits may be unaware that they are different, or on the other side, are prideful of their behaviors. In any case, people who behave in these ways create a stressful and toxic environment for those involved. While these people can be helped in some ways, it’s best to try and remove yourself from these toxic situations to the best of your ability. Many will refuse to accept help or even acknowledge their behavior, which in turn, only continues to harm others. Others, fortunately, go onto receive help and improve their behaviors. What do you think about the dark tetrad? Have you experienced anyone like this? What might be some more signs? Let us know in the comments.

Like this article? Here’s one about Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD):

What Is NPD? (Narcissistic Personality Disorder)

And one about psychopathy and sociopathy:

6 Signs of Psychopathy/Sociopathy


  • Dodgson, Lindsay. “The 9 Dark Personality Traits of Narcissists, Psychopaths, and Sociopaths – and What They Mean.” Insider, Insider, 8 Oct. 2018, www.insider.com/dark-tetrad-personality-traits-what-they-are-and-what-they-mean-2018-10#machiavellianism-2.
  • Emamzadeh, Arash. “Should the Dark Triad Become the Dark Tetrad?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 11 Oct. 2019, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/finding-new-home/201910/should-the-dark-triad-become-the-dark-tetrad.
  • Hammond, Christine. “The Dark Tetrad: Possibly THE Scariest Boss.” The Exhausted Woman, 29 June 2019, pro.psychcentral.com/exhausted-woman/2015/11/the-dark-tetrad-possibly-the-scariest-boss/.
  • Mind Tools Content Team. “Understanding the Dark Triad: Managing ‘Dark’ Personality Traits.” MindTools.com, 2020, www.mindtools.com/pages/article/understanding-dark-triad.htm.
  • University of Copenhagen. “Psychologists define the ‘dark core of personality’.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 September 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180926110841.htm>.

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