Here Are 7 Traits Found In Antagonistic People

New research compares antagonistic personality traits with basic models of personality.

By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | April 14, 2022

A new study appearing in the Journal of Personality examines how dark personality traits show up in basic models of personality, such as the 'Big Five' personality model.

"In clinical psychopathology, up to seven traits have been suggested as instances of antagonistic psychopathology," explain the psychologists, led by David Scholz of the University of Koblenz-Landau in Germany.

The following are the seven characteristics of antagonistic personalities:

  1. Callousness — showing little concern for other people's feelings or problems
  2. Hostility — recurring bouts of irritability, particularly in response to minor slights and insults
  3. Manipulativeness — guile in one's behavior, usually intended to influence, control, or charm others
  4. Deceitfulness — dishonesty, embellishment, and/or deception
  5. Attention seeking — engaging in behaviors intended to draw the attention and/or admiration of others
  6. Grandiosity — believing oneself to be superior to others (self-centeredness) and deserving of preferential treatment
  7. Suspiciousness — hypersensitivity to interpersonal malice or harm

The researchers wanted to know if these dark personality traits could be found in non-pathological personality models such as the Big Five (which divides personality into five dimensions: introversion/extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, openness, and emotional stability) or the 'HEXACO' model of personality. The HEXACO model is similar to the Big Five, but it includes a 'honesty/humility' dimension.

To test this, they conducted a large-scale online study in which over three thousand participants completed questionnaires measuring the following personality dimensions.

  • Antagonistic traits
  • Agreeableness
  • Honesty/humility
  • And, dark personality traits

The researchers then assessed how well agreeableness, honesty/humility, and dark personality traits predicted the presence of antagonistic personality traits.

They discovered that the agreeableness dimension from the Big Five personality framework best accounted for the antagonistic traits of callousness and hostility, whereas manipulativeness and deceitfulness were more strongly related to the HEXACO model's honesty/humility dimension.

Not surprisingly, when all seven antagonistic personality traits were considered, they discovered that dark personality traits had the greatest predictive power.

"The results confirmed that [dark personality traits] represent all antagonistic traits most comprehensively, whereas agreeableness and honesty/humility each tend to cover only a certain subset of antagonistic traits particularly well and thus miss out on other aspects," says Scholz.

According to the researchers, one outlier trait was attention-seeking, which was not adequately explained by any of the personality dimensions studied. They also point out that any attempt to explain antagonistic personality traits using only one or two dimensions of personality, such as low agreeableness, is an oversimplification.

To better understand maladaptive personality traits, the authors would like to see more theoretical integration between clinical and personality psychology in the future.

"The view on personality psychopathology is changing," says Scholz. "Clinical psychology has been moving away from categorical diagnoses, such as antisocial or histrionic personality disorder, and has started to describe personality-based psychological problems in terms of several so-called maladaptive traits. Research has a long way to go, but without a shared map (in this case a common model of personality and clinical processes) there is limited hope to get very far."

A full interview with David Scholz discussing this new research can be found here: What is the right way to think about antagonistic, deceitful, and callous personalities?