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Structure of darkness: The Dark Triad, the ‘Dark’ Empathy and the ‘Dark’ Narcissism



empathic deficits, network analysis, the Dark Triad


While it is universally agreed that empathy deficit is a necessary condition for the dark roster membership, the literature provides no consensus regarding differential associations between individual Dark Triad traits with cognitive and affective empathy. With this in mind, we have investigated topology of the network consisting of Affective and Cognitive Measure of Empathy, Narcissistic Admiration and Rivalry Questionnaire, and Short Dark Triad traits (SD3). The network analysis disclosed cohesive configuration of multiply connected study variables, thus confirming their aversive coaction. Two main axes of study variables were identified: the ‘dark’ affective dissonance-rivalry-psychopathy axis, and the ‘brighter’ admiration-SD3 narcissism axis; each characterized by its specific manifestation of empathic deficit. Affective dissonance was the most central while affective resonance was the most redundant node of the network.  Rivalry — a node connecting the two axes — had the greatest strength in the network and was closer to affective dissonance than to psychopathy. Involvement of affective dissonance uncovered the dual nature of Machiavellianism by shifting it away from psychopathy and closer to narcissism. Overall, by use of structural information not accessible by other means, this study substantiates the proposition about the essential role of distinct empathic deficits in the constellation of antagonistic traits.