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The dark triad in male and female athletes and non-athletes: Group differences and psychometric properties of the short dark triad (SD3)

Vaughan, Robert; Madigan, Daniel; Carter, Gregory; Nicholls, Adam R.


Robert Vaughan

Daniel Madigan

Gregory Carter

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Professor Adam Nicholls
Professor of Psychology/ Leader of the Sport Psychology and Coaching Group


© 2019 Elsevier Ltd Objectives: The Short Dark Triad (SD3) is a popular, brief measure of narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy, which are known as the Dark Triad. The present study adopted this measure and had two aims. First, to assess the psychometric properties of the SD3 with a focus on measurement invariance across gender, athletic expertise, and sport type. Second, to examine mean differences in Dark Triad scores across these groups. Design: Cross-sectional. Method: In total, 1258 participants (625 women; mean age 23.47 years) with a range of athletic experience (non-athletes, N = 408; amateur, N = 557; elite, N = 293) from team (N = 577) and individual (N = 273) sports completed the SD3. Factorial validity was assessed using exploratory structural equation modelling. Results: Analyses indicated that the three-factor model provided adequate fit, however, a bifactor model incorporating the three specific factors and a general factor, provided superior fit to the data. Moreover, invariance testing suggested some inconsistency in the observed factor structures across groups. In addition, findings indicated group differences with men scoring higher than women, athletes with greater expertise scoring higher than those with less expertise, and individual athletes scoring higher than team athletes across all factors. Conclusions: We suggest that researchers continue to use the SD3 using both composite and subscale scores, but recommend caution when interpreting subscale scores among women and team athletes until further psychometric work has been conducted within these populations. Our findings also suggest that the Dark Triad may be worth examining in future studies in sport.


Vaughan, R., Madigan, D., Carter, G., & Nicholls, A. R. (2019). The dark triad in male and female athletes and non-athletes: Group differences and psychometric properties of the short dark triad (SD3). Psychology of sport and exercise, 43, 64-72.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 5, 2019
Online Publication Date Jan 8, 2019
Publication Date 2019-07
Deposit Date Jan 7, 2019
Publicly Available Date Jul 9, 2020
Journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise
Print ISSN 1469-0292
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 43
Pages 64-72
Keywords Gender; Machiavellianism; Narcissism; Psychopathy; Psychometrics
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