Do you know anyone that always seems to have a dramatic, over-the-top story for you? These people tend to live quite chaotic lives, and it’s never really clear how real or contrived each individual drama-infused saga actually is.
Researchers from the University of Texas (UT) at El Paso have been pondering on this perceived need for drama for some time, and they’ve designed a test that anyone can take to see if they too have drama-prone behavior. As revealed in their study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, a high score on their Need for Drama (NFD) scale is far from desirable, particularly as it’s linked to other, more antagonistic personality characteristics.
First off, this team of psychologists asked 69 volunteers to describe people in their life that they see as drama-prone, in order to clarify what exactly “drama-prone” meant. Nearly 40 percent said that these people were easily offended, and 38 percent said they were extremely sensitive to criticism.
Around 37 percent said that they like playing the victim and were prone to outbursts. About 31 percent said they were manipulative and had an exaggerated sense of entitlement. Precisely zero percent described these people as humble.
This allowed the researchers to come up with a series of statements that drama-prone people would likely say themselves. These statements were then shown to a sample of 245 participants, who were then asked how agreeable or disagreeable they were.
The NFD scale. The more you can relate to these phrases, with the exception of number 5, the more you crave drama in your life. Frankowski et al./Personality and Individual Differences
Those who agreed with statements such as “it’s fun to get people riled up,” “I like to talk bad about others,” “I play people against each other,” “people are out to get me,” and “friends have stabbed me in the back” ranked highly on the NFD scale. Those with a high score have a tendency to manipulate people around them, to be impulsive and outspoken, and to generate an atmosphere of perceived victimhood.
These characteristics have strong links to the “dark triad” of personality traits, as shown by another survey conducted by the researchers. These include Machiavellianism (the ability to manipulate others for personal gain), psychopathy (impulsivity and lack of empathy or remorse), and self-obsessiveness (narcissism).
Possessing these dark triad personality traits can actually be a boon to yourself and even others, whether you’re morally bankrupt or not. Unfortunately, when it’s linked to the need to create drama, there can be problems.
As this study reveals, people ranking high on this scale are often neurotic, tend to be very unconscientious, somewhat disagreeable, and are fans of generating gossip. The researchers go as far as describing a person with a high NFD score as having a “compound, maladaptive personality trait,” one that correlates with psychopathy more than the other two dark triad traits.
So drama-prone people are impulsive psychopaths – but is the drama they so dearly crave real? The researchers seem to think so. Their inherent impulsivity actually creates their drama, but curiously, they actually believe that external factors are conspiring to generate it, which is why they see themselves as victims.
“I think, probably, most people know someone like this in their life,” said Scott Frankowski, a psychologist at UT El Paso and the study’s lead author, to Science of Us.