What is the Light Triad that Makes you a Good Person?

People with these personality traits see the best in people and have faith in humanity


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Most of us have heard of the "dark triad," the personality traits that can make us creative but also more likely to cheat on a test or to be a bully. Now, psychologists have determined in a study that the opposite, the "light triad," can explain why some people are naturally inclined to be good.

How you view the world can explain why some people are good and do good. Do you see the best in people or think that people are always out to get you? Are you honest, or do you turn on the charm in conversations? The answers to these questions can help determine how much we are of what Scott Barry Kaufman,  a psychologist at Columbia University in New York, calls an everyday saint.

Two decades ago, the theory of the dark triad of personality traits – narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy was formed and was used to determine how people related various life situations that include relationships, workplace success or even to the concept of committing sins.

Kaufman decided there was too much emphasis on the dark side of personalities and that it was time to delve into the lighter and better side of people. “It just really frustrated me that people are so fascinated with the dark side, but the light side of personality was being neglected,” he said in the study that was published in Frontiers in Psychology on March 12, 2019.

The light triad also is comprised of three personality traits that can be used to understand a person's overall character, and each of the traits highlights how you react with others. They include seeing the best in people (faith in humanity), believing in the dignity and worth of people (humanism), as well as being uncomfortable manipulating people to do what you want or for your own gain.

William Fleeson, a psychologist at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, told the BBC that the three traits fit into the existing research into what makes someone a good person. The more one believes that others are good, the less one feels the need to protect against them, the less one feels the need to punish them when they do bad things,” he said.

Kaufman determined in the study that everyday saints do not just benefit the rest of the world with kindness but also make their own lives better. They have higher self-esteem, are more satisfied with their relationships and jobs, as well as a stronger sense of self. There were many character strengths linked to higher light triad traits that include kindness, love, tenderness, forgiveness, and gratitude.

A total of 1,518 people were recruited from four demographically diverse samples to participate in the research by answering a series of questions. Most people did not have all light or all dark personality traits but have a mix of the two.

The study said that the two triads are not in opposition to each other because we are a part of both. You can take a test that will show you where you fall on the scale. “I think that this duality is in all of us,” Kaufman said. “Embracing the dark side is actually a really good thing and harnessing it in a healthy way for optimal creative potential is more important than pretending it’s not there."

The really hopeful message from the study, according to Kaufman, is that the average test subject skewed more to the light side. “This is kind of verification that despite the horrors of the world, people really are basically tipped towards the light side by default,” he said.

Further research is needed on the light triad to verify these results, but that will hopefully reinforce the idea that people are inherently good, and that people should have faith in humanity. It is the good qualities in us that make us want to heal the planet, feed the world, and take care of the downtrodden.

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