February 25, 2023 10:58 am

Psychology Element

When people think of empaths and empathy, they probably think of kind-hearted, good-natured, and altruistic people. Usually, people view empathy as being an inherently good quality to have. But did you know that recent research may have discovered a new type of personality called the Dark Empath? That’s right. 

In 2020, Heym and other psychologists at the Nottingham Trent University conducted a study on 991 participants and found nearly 20% would meet the classification of what they have coined the “Dark Empath”.

1. They have traits from the Dark Triad but don’t quite fit that. 

Before 2020, psychologists typically categorized people who didn’t fit another diagnosis, as empaths, average people, or individuals who’d fit on the Dark Triad of personality traits. Dark Triad Personalities harbor a narcissistic, psychopathic, and machiavellian personality with little or no empathy.

However, recent research shows that there may be a new, distinct type of person who doesn’t fit into those groups. 

These people are called, you guessed it, Dark Empaths. Unlike people with Dark Triad traits, the Dark Empaths have dark traits and empathy, which offers advantages and disadvantages to the individual. 

And if you want to know more about the Dark Triad? Check out our video “13 Signs Someone Has A Dark Personality”.

2. They Use “Cognitive Empathy”. 

Did you know there are two types of empathy? That’s right. The two types are Cognitive Empathy and Affective Empathy.

Affective Empathy is the kind of empathy we typically think of when we imagine a traditional empath. It is sometimes referred to as Emotional Empathy because it involves actually feeling the same emotional sensations as another person. When they see someone in pain, they also feel pain. When they see someone happy, they’re happy. 

Cognitive empathy, in contrast, uses our mind to imagine another person’s perspective without feeling the emotional component. For example, if they see someone sad, rather than feeling emotionally sad for them, they imagine how the sad person would want them to behave then act accordingly. 

People who are Dark Empaths are skilled in using their cognitive empathy but less skilled in affective empathy. 

You can watch this article if you prefer watching instead.

3. They have differences in Extraversion and Neuroticism compared to average people.

The research found that those who would fit the Dark Empath category also scored differently on the “Big Five” Personality Traits when compared to average, typical populations. 

Dark Empaths scored higher in Extraversion and Neuroticism compared to average populations. 

Interestingly, the same researchers also found that Dark Empaths are more agreeable and less aggressive than those on the Dark Triad.

4. Their overall well being is higher than other dark personalities. 

Perhaps because of their more agreeable nature, but Dark Empaths rated having a higher quality of life compared to those with only dark traits but no empathy. Dark empaths reported feeling less anxiety and more social enjoyment, contributing to their higher well-being. These findings could indicate that even when empathy isn’t always used with good intentions, it still harbors protective qualities that can boost one’s quality of life.

5. They have a harsh sense of humor.

In the study conducted by Heym, it was also reported that empaths use “malicious humor” more often than neurotypicals or empaths. 

Malicious Humor was first introduced by Sigmund Freud, who called it “Tendentious”. It is considered the most destructive form of humor as it’s used to belittle those someone feels is beneath them. Sometimes it’s used to make fun of entire groups, like religions or races in a discriminatory manner. 

How could someone with any empathy do this at all, you might be wondering? Well, some research says that laughing at groups, outcasts, or scapegoats brings out an immediate release of pent up anger without doing any healing.

This is why this humor is so toxic. Not only does it hurt the targets of the jokes, but the dark empath is also reinforced by the release of anger that they feel, that they continue to do it despite the negative consequences. 

6. They feel more shame than Neurotypicals. 

Regular empaths report feeling more shame than other personality groups, which makes sense as they’re rather altruistic in nature and feel the weight of their rare bad deeds heavily. But it might surprise you to hear that dark empaths also report feeling high levels of shame, despite their repetitive dark behaviors. 

Many researchers assume that shame is used to help individuals learn from their personal or social mistakes. One might assume that this would protect those with empathy from exhibiting destructive behaviors due to the shame felt, but according to Heym’s study, dark empaths still felt shame more than normal individuals.

Although more research needs to be done on this topic, it’s comforting to know that the dark empath’s feel some shame when they’ve wronged us!

7. They have better relationships than Dark Triad individuals.

Unsurprisingly, their empathy also allows them to have closer and more fulfilling relationships than people with only Dark Triad traits but no empathy. Even though their empathy is often used maliciously, it might act as a protective quality to avoiding discrepancies in the first place. 

Dark Triad individuals are known to have unstable relationships, often due to their aggressive and exploitive behavior. They usually do not feel any remorse for using and hurting even those that they love, so why not do it?

However, Dark Empaths don’t only rank higher in shame, but also lower in exploitive tendencies. Even though Dark Empaths may have the capability to break your heart due to their magnetic and malicious nature, they don’t enjoy using people for personal gain as much as their Dark Triad counterparts. That’s a relief! 

8. They make excellent first responders, social workers, or other similar careers. 

Dark Empaths might not be the most pleasant people to have in your life, but they do definitely have their place in society! 

First responders, surgeons, social workers, and other careers where one is exposed to highly traumatic stimuli all benefit from having dark empath traits. It’s important for them to be able to detach from their empathy and numb their emotions during high-stress situations.

If a surgeon let their empathy get in their way during surgery, they’d likely faint from imagining the pain the patient might be in. Dark empaths are skilled in detaching their behaviors from their empathy when necessary, making them great in these fields. 

9. They use relational aggression.

Dark Empaths are more likely to use relational aggression, like gossip or rumors, to hurt people rather than outright aggression. Dark Empaths know how to really hurt people, and they’ll often make their damage long-term if not permanent by going after one’s reputation. They’ll do this all while appearing sweet, innocent, and empathetic themselves, maybe even appearing as a victim to the target of their rumors. 

The scary thing about dark empaths is that because they are often not aggressive directly to your face, giving you a chance to defend yourself, often the damage is done by the time you find out.

10. They are like emotional shapeshifters. 

The Dark Empath’s ability to be highly manipulative and use empathy allows them to become emotional shapeshifters. It doesn’t matter the setting that they’re in, they’ll blend in to please the crowd in whatever way the crowd wants. Their empathy gives them the ability to zoom in on people’s emotions like they’re under a microscope and almost immediately adapt, making them appear always likable and charming.

Their manipulative and magnetic personalities are what makes them so dangerous, as people truly fall deeply in love with them. It’s important to remember that just because a person is empathetic, it doesn’t make them inherently good! 

We hope these facts about dark empaths helped you discover if you know any yourself! Which was your favorite? Let us know in the comments below! 

About the Author

Psychology Element helps you to understand your own psychology, your relationships, and various mental disorders.

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