The Dark Triad of Handwriting
Malevolent, malicious, malignant. The three m’s that describe the “Dark Triad” of personality traits which consist of narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism. In handwriting there is not one stroke of the pen that pegs the writer specifically as any one of the three horses on this troika. However, a conclusion can be inferred when the analyst is able to stack precise traits in definitive combinations.
Let’s take a look at the definition of each of these traits:
Definition of Narcissism
According to Greek mythology, Narcissus was the beautiful son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liriope (Lyriope). He was a hunter renowned for his beauty and who loved everything beautiful. Walking by a river, he stopped to drink water. Upon seeing his own reflection in the water he became entranced. As he could not obtain the object of his desire, he died on the bank of the river due to sorrow and starvation as he could not part with his own image.
The word narcissism comes from Narcissus and the main personality traits that define it are attention-seeking, charm, vanity, pretense, insincerity, ostentation, low self-esteem, impulsivity, and manipulation. Narcissists’ arrogance, sense of entitlement, grandiosity, dominance, authoritarianism, selfishness, and self-admiration make them difficult to deal with. One does not expect them to also be so sensitive to criticism, so in need of attention and sensations, and to have low self-esteem at times. During job interviews, narcissists were found to be more self-promoting and talkative.
Definition of Psychopathy
Psychopathy is characterized by persistent antisocial, self-serving, egotistical, bold, unrestrained, thrill-seeking, manipulative, impulsive, merciless, and remorseless behavioral patterns. Psychopaths do not feel emotions, but they are master chameleons as they can learn how to imitate feelings. Therefore, they are unable to construct emotional attachments. Psychopaths will wear your down, because they feel little to no fear, have a high tolerance for stress, unfamiliarity, and danger, and have high self- and social-confidence. Their poor impulse control leads to problems with controlling urges, which is exacerbated by the need for immediate gratification. Their lack of planning and foresight, coupled with manipulative, self-serving, callous behavioral reactions, result in impulsive antisocial conduct. As if that’s not enough, their lack of empathy and moral restraint, exploitative propensities, rebellion to authority, and destructive thrill-seeking are all often linked to violence, delinquency, or crime. Psychopathy is probably the darkest leg of the triad. Its prevalence in the general population is about 1%. As CEO’s the percentage jumps to 10%, and as criminals the percentage jumps to 25%.
Definition of Machiavellianism
Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli was a 15th century Italian diplomat, political thinker, historian, philosopher, and author. According to Wikipedia, the term “Machiavellian is widely used as a pejorative to characterize unscrupulous politicians of the sort Machiavelli described most famously in The Prince. Machiavelli described immoral behavior, such as dishonesty and the killing of innocents, as being normal and effective in politics.”
The psychologist Richard Christie conceptualized the term Machiavellianism for a specific set of psychological traits. Although Machiavellianism and psychopathy overlap heavily, they are considered distinct personality constructs. The main differences are that Machiavellians show less impulsivity, are better at long term planning, and have more self-control than psychopaths. The main traits that define Machiavellians are cold, calculated, tactical, strategic, immoral thinking; well planned (long term) manipulation; strategic flexibility; blunt practicality; and a drive for power, money, or success. High-Machs (individuals who score high on Machiavellianism) easily interpret social context, allowing them to adjust strategies between cooperation and competition. During job interviews high Machs were found to be more dishonest.
THE HANDWRITING STROKES
Are you afraid yet? I sincerely hope that you, the reader, will never have to deal with a personality who falls within the Dark Triad. The Dark Triad overlap in many personality traits, especially in disagreeableness, callousness, dishonesty, and manipulation. To complicate things further, many of the traits, such as lying, may not always appear in the Dark Triad writer’s handwriting. The analyst has to stack different traits to reach that conclusion.
To see how these personality traits are illustrated in the handwriting, I collected handwriting samples from the more notorious serial killers and known dark triad personalities. I point out some of the traits in the handwriting samples and then discuss a few of them in more detail below.
DONALD JOHN TRUMP: 45th President of the USA
The first sample we will look at is the handwriting of everyone’s favorite assumed narcissist, Donald Trump. Donald John Trump is the 45th president of the USA, a businessman, and TV personality. He went to the Kew Forest School until age 13. Due to behavioral problems his parents sent him to the New York Military Academy. He received a degree in Economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (1966-1968). President Trump was described as “a very modest and even a shy person” by a classmate, Ted Sachs, while at Wharton. Another classmate, Luis Kalomaris, described the young Trump as ambitious, who studied only what interested him and discarded what he considered unimportant.
The outstanding feature of President Trump’s handwriting is the angularity of the letter formations. Angular writing means that the writer is a quick thinker (pointy tops of letters) and analytical (pointy bottoms of letters). However, the more angular the letter formations, the more rigid and inflexible the writer. The excessive angularity in Pres. Trump’s handwriting means that he is quite rigid and dogmatic in his thinking. I call this “my-way-or-the-highway” type thinking. Immediate gratification is the name of the game for him!
In this sample the domineering stroke is somewhat difficult to distinguish because of President Trump’s penchant for writing with markers or broad pointed pens. However, the downslanted crossbar ends slightly narrower than the width at the beginning of the stroke. This writer equates leading with control and power, and will manipulate, whine, gripe, or throw tantrums to get his way. Traits that usually accompany this stroke are aggression, sarcasm, temper, and stingers, all of which are present in the sample above. Aggression, sarcasm, and temper are all self-explanatory terms, however, stingers are a category unto their own.
Stingers/Need for a Challenge/Anger at Opposite Sex/Manipulation: