These 7 Traits Are Found in People With “Antagonistic Personalities”

A new study published in the Personality Magazine examines how dark personality traits show up in basic personality models, such as the Big Five personality model.

“In clinical psychopathology, up to seven traits have been proposed as examples of antagonistic psychopathology,” say the researchers, led by David Scholz of the University of Koblenz-Landau in Germany.

The seven traits found in antagonistic personalities are:

  1. callousness — show little interest in the feelings or problems of others
  2. hostility – Recurring feelings of anger and irritability, particularly in response to minor slights and insults
  3. manipulability — Trickery in one’s behavior, usually intended to influence, control, or charm others
  4. falsehood — dishonesty, embellishment and/or fraud
  5. attention seeking — Behaviors aimed at making oneself the center of attention and/or admiration from others
  6. grandiosity — believing that one is superior to others (egocentric) and deserves special treatment
  7. mistrust – Hypersensitivity to interpersonal evil intentions or harm

Researchers wanted to know if these dark personality tendencies are found in non-pathological models of personality such as the Big Five (which categorize personality into five dimensions: introversion/extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, openness, and emotional stability) or the Big Five ‘HEXACO’ -Personality model. The HEXACO model is similar to the Big Five but adds an “honesty/humility” dimension to the mix.

To test this, they conducted a large-scale online study in which over three thousand participants filled out questionnaires that measured the following personality dimensions.

  • Antagonistic properties
  • compatibility
  • Honesty/Humility
  • And dark personality traits

They then rated how well agreeableness, honesty/humility, and dark personality traits predicted the existence of antagonistic personality traits.

They found that the antagonistic traits callousness and hostility are best explained by the Agreeable dimension of the Big Five personality framework, while Manipulative and Insidious are more closely related to the Honesty/Humility dimension of the HEXACO model.

Not surprisingly, they found that dark personality traits offered the greatest predictive power when considering all seven antagonistic personality traits.

“The results have confirmed that [dark personality traits] represent all antagonistic characteristics most comprehensively, while agreeableness and honesty/humility only cover a certain subset of the antagonistic characteristics particularly well and thus omit other aspects,” says Scholz.

According to the researchers, one outlier characteristic was the search for attention, which could not be adequately explained by any of the personality dimensions examined. They also point out that any attempt to explain antagonistic personality traits in terms of just one or two dimensions of personality—for example, low agreeableness—would be an oversimplification.

In the future, the authors wish for a stronger theoretical integration between clinical and personality psychology in order to better understand maladaptive personality traits.

“The view of personality psychopathology is changing,” says Scholz. “Clinical psychology has moved away from categorical diagnoses such as antisocial or histrionic personality disorder and has begun to describe personality-based psychological problems in terms of several so-called maladaptive traits. Research has a long way to go, but without a common map (in this case, a common model of personality and clinical processes), there is limited hope of getting very far.”

A full interview with David Scholz about this new research can be found here: What is the right way to think about antagonistic, deceitful, and callous personalities?

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