A while back, I was asked how “Dark Personalities” fit with my Hexad of User Types. At the time, I had no answer – because I had never heard of dark personalities.
So, as I always do, I responded with honesty and promised to look into it. I have touched on it with how I now explain disruptors in my book and in some papers I have helped with – but have never really mapped them out to make it easy to understand.
The first thing is to discuss what dark personalities are. It seems to stem from an article in the Journal of Research in Personality by D. Paulhus and K. Williams. They describe three types of dark personalities: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy.
Taking each one individually (I’ll admit that I am using the Wikipedia descriptions, so these are simplified!), we can see that these are not the nicest of personality traits!
- Narcissism is characterized by grandiosity, pride, egotism, and a lack of empathy.
- Machiavellianism is characterized by manipulation and exploitation of others, a cynical disregard for morality, and a focus on self-interest and deception.
- Psychopathy is characterized by enduring antisocial behavior, impulsivity, selfishness, callousness, and remorselessness.
As I searched more about them, I discovered that a fourth type or trait had been suggested by three researchers, Erin Buckels and Delroy Paulhus and Daniel Jones (Paulhus being partly responsible for the Triad version). The fourth, though apparent in each of the previous three, was worthy of inclusion in its own right – Sadism.
Sadists take pleasure from causing harm to others. It goes a lot deeper than that, but for our purposes, that is what we need to concentrate on.
So how do these map to the Hexad then?
Narcissism. It could be said that those in the Hexad who take pleasure in helping others and importantly the praise that come with it display a level of narcissism. So a someone who displays Philanthropist or more likely Self Seeker type tendencies, but in reality has no empathy with those they are helping, is doing it purely for the praise and glory that comes with the help and the feeling of superiority that may bring is showing narcissistic tendencies.
Machiavellianism. Two types come to mind here. The first is the Influencer from the Disruptor group. They use others to achieve their own agenda. Now, normally when I speak of these, I talk about them in a positive light. I have seen them in a more of a politician role where they have the best of intentions. However, it is not a long stretch to get from that to manipulation of others for personal gain, especially if they display more Griefer like tendencies along with their Influencer ones. The other is the Networker from the Player group. Their interest in people is mostly for personal gain, though generally they are looking for numbers of people rather than control of them.
Psychopathy. This is displayed potentially in a couple of types. The obvious is Griefer, how is antisocial and can be remorseless in their goal of harming others in some way. It can also be seen in the Destroyer type, but that is aimed more at the destruction of the system for pleasure rather than the people in it.
Sadism. Griefer from the Distruptor type, pure and simple. They want to destroy others just for fun.
As you can see, there is a lot of crossover. The original research also attests to this stating that “The measures were moderately inter-correlated, but certainly were not equivalent”.
What does this mean for gamification?
In the Hexad types you may see these personalities and behaviours in varying degrees, again showing that there is no such thing as a single type that can be attributed to a person – we are far too complex. The point (as ever) is to not ignore that there are differences and to design accordingly.
With the darker personalties it can be hard to know how to handle them in a gamified system. The hard truth is, you just have to protect against them and have in place mechanisms that allow you to exclude them – or at least limit their ability to behave in such negative ways.
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