Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

The nasty, the vindictive and the powerful are all said, at one time or another, to be proficient in the dark arts.

These are artistic tendencies that seem to involve untold amounts of egotism, callousness and Machiavellian behavior.

What, though, is at the heart of these arts? And how come all the most dangerous, despicable people in the world all seem to have their own niche?

There are psychopaths. There are narcissists. There are sadists. There are politicians.

Each bring misery upon kind, thoughtful and decent people. Is it really that they each have their own psychological quirk?

Some scientists from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, Ulm University and the University of Koblenz-Landau in Germany thought they'd see if there was a core principle -- an ugly one -- at the heart of society's worst, and often most successful.

Their research, published last week, offers some reassuring delights.

The University of Copenhagen asserts: 

Although at first glance there appear to be noteworthy differences between these traits -- and it may seem more 'acceptable' to be an egoist than a psychopath -- new research shows that all dark aspects of human personality are very closely linked and are based on the same tendency.

I'm sure that, in America, egoists are not only more acceptable, but more admired than psychopaths.

These researchers, however, show that there's really not much between the two.

They looked at egoism, Machiavellianism, narcissism, psychopathy, sadism and spitefulness among other traits of the nasty and -- my own insertion here -- the political.

All of them, they said, had the D-Factor (Dark Factor). This they define as: 

The general tendency to maximize one's individual utility -- disregarding, accepting, or malevolently provoking disutility for others --, accompanied by beliefs that serve as justifications.

I can already feel you looking at certain famous, powerful people and declaiming that they fit this picture entirely.

As the University of Copenhagen's Ingo Zettler put it: 

An individual who exhibits a particular malevolent behavior (such as likes to humiliate others) will have a higher likelihood to engage in other malevolent activities, too (such as cheating, lying, or stealing).

It's heartwarming, though, to realize that there isn't really all that much that differentiates the nasty people in the world. The researchers say that sadism, psychopathy, egoism and the rest "have far more in common than actually sets them apart."

Perhaps that's why many non-academic types use an especially simple word beginning with A to define all the D-Factored people. 

Still, what's especially moving about this research is that it allows you to test your own D-Factor.

You answer a series of questions and get a score at the end.

I took the test.

I fear I would cause you great pain if I told you the result.

Published on: Oct 3, 2018