Screening for dark personalities

The Short Dark Tetrad (SD4)


Consensus is emerging that the constellation of dark personalities should include the sadistic personality. To build a four-factor measure, we modified and extended the Short Dark Triad (SD3) measure to include sadism. A series of three studies yielded the Short Dark Tetrad (SD4), a four subscale inventory with 7 items per construct. Study 1 (N = 868) applied exploratory factor analysis (EFA) to a diverse 48-item pool using data collected on MTurk. A 4-factor solution revealed a separate sadism factor, as well as a shifted Dark Triad. Study 2 (N = 999 students) applied EFA to a reduced 37-item set. Associations with adjustment and sex drive provided insight into unique personality dynamics of the four constructs. In Study 3 (N = 660), a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) of the final 28 items showed acceptable fit for a four-factor solution. Moreover, the resulting 7-item subscales each showed coherent links with the Big Five and adjustment. In sum, the four-factor structure replicated across student and community samples. Although they overlap to a moderate degree, the four subscales show distinctive correlates – even with a control for acquiescence. We also uncovered a novel link between sadism and sexuality, but no association with maladjustment.

European Journal of Psychological Assessment


Paulhus, D. L., Buckels, E. E., Trapnell, P. D., & Jones, D. N. (2021). Screening for dark personalities: The Short Dark Tetrad (SD4). European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 37(3), 208–222.

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Erin E. Buckels
Erin E. Buckels
Assistant Professor of Psychology