By: April Carson
Scientists have discovered a “new and hazardous” personality trait known as “dark empathy,” which depicts an individual who can sense another's suffering without necessarily feeling it themselves. Do you possess this new "toxic" quality?
A study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology has proposed a new personality trait that is thought to characterize individuals who are particularly good at empathizing with others’ dark emotions, such as anger and hatred.
Individuals who have dark personality traits, such as narcissism, may still have a lot of cognitive and affective empathy, according to recent studies.
The research, which was just published in Personality and Individual Differences, classifies these people as "dark empaths."
Empathy is made up of three components: cognitive empathy, which is the intellectual comprehension of another person's feelings without feeling them; affective empathy, or the ability to feel someone else's emotions as your own; and compassionate empathy, which combines both cognitive and emotional empathetic abilities.
When individuals have cognitive and/or affective empathy, as well as dark triad features such as Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and narcissism, they are considered dark empaths.
Typically, scientists have associated those with darker features with a lack of empathy.
The study found that dark empaths are more likely to take part in aggressive and manipulative behavior, as well as being more likely to experience negative emotions themselves.
"These findings suggest that individuals high in both empathy and the Dark Triad of personality may be a particularly problematic combination," the authors wrote.
If you think you might be a dark empath, the authors suggest that you seek help from a professional. "It is important to note that empathy is generally considered a positive trait," they wrote. "However, too much of anything can be harmful, and this research suggests that individuals high in empathy may want to consider seeking help if they find themselves engaging in manipulative or aggressive behavior."
While this new data, which the researchers analyzed from a group of 1,000 people, certainly supports the dark empaths' preeminence, it also reveals a significant presence for the dark empath category.
“We expected to discover a typical dark triad group with low empathy scores (about 13 percent of the sample). We also discovered a group with lower to average levels in all traits (about 34% were “typicals”) as well as a group with low dark personality features and high empathy (about 33 percent were empaths), according to the study's authors.
They found that a fourth category of people, dubbed the "dark empaths," was clearly defined. They had higher scores on both dark personality characteristics and empathy (about 20% of our sample). This latter group outscored both cognitive and affective empathy than the "Dark triad" and "usual" groups, according to them.
The researchers were not shocked that the dark empaths performed as well as they did in the cognitive and affective empathy categories.
“This makes sense in a way,” they wrote, “as to manipulate others for your own benefit—or, indeed, to enjoy the suffering of others—you must have at least some capacity to comprehend them.
The dark empaths were also found to be more indirectly aggressive than typicals and empaths, according to the researchers.
Empathy, on the other hand, did not entirely eliminate aggression in the group.
Finally, it appeared that the group had a conscience and may even despise its dark side, with negative emotions being a reaction to their self-hatred, according to the team.
The new data are illuminating dark triad characteristics as well as forcing clinical psychologists to reconsider empathy.
“Being a dark empath may be more dangerous than being a colder, emotionless dark triad type because the so-called dark empath might entice you closer—and do greater damage as a result," Ramani Durvasula, PhD, a clinical psychologist told PsychCentral.
“The closer you are to someone, the more you can damage them," Durvasula told us.
While previous research has found that people who are higher in empathy are less likely to be sociopaths, the new study published in Frontiers in Psychology suggests that there may be a dark side to empathy after all.
The study's findings have major implications for our understanding of psychopathy and could change the way we think about empathy altogether.
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About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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