Do you tend to see the best in people, or assume that others are out to get you? And are you always honest in conversation, or do you prefer to turn on the charm?
Your answers to these questions partly determine how much of an “everyday saint” you are, according to a group of psychologists who’ve come up with a new way of looking at beneficent personality traits. In order to qualify, it helps if you see humans, and humanity at large, as fundamentally good – and treat them that way too.
Two decades ago psychologists came up with the now infamous “dark triad” of personality traits to understand why some people don’t think twice before cheating on a test or picking on someone weaker than them. Since then researchers have seized upon this trio – namely narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy – investigating how they relate to a variety of things including workplace success, relationship troubles, and even the seven deadly sins.
That’s exactly why Scott Barry Kaufman, a psychologist at Columbia University in New York, decided it was time to redress the balance in favour of the brighter side of our inner lives. “It just really frustrated me that people are so fascinated with the dark side, but the light side of personality was being neglected,” he says.
You might also like:
- How dark is your personality
- Does reading make us better people?
- The dark side of believing in true love
Like its dark counterpart, the “light triad” being investigated by Kaufman and his colleagues comprises three personality traits that together paint a picture of someone’s overall character. Each of the traits highlight a different aspect of how you interact with others: from seeing the best in people and being quick to forgive, to applauding the successes of others, to being uncomfortable manipulating people into doing something you want.
The first trait, humanism, is defined as believing in the inherent dignity and worth of other humans. The second, Kantianism, gets its name from philosopher Immanuel Kant, and means treating people as ends unto themselves, not just as unwitting pawns in your personal game of chess. Finally, “faith in humanity” is about believing that other humans are fundamentally good, and not out to get you.