Sadism Test: 9 Questions That Detect Sadism

Certain experts have been deliberating for a while now whether the dark triad should be converted into the dark tetrad with the addition of sadism, and to further enhance their research, they have carefully formulated the 9 questions that detect sadism.

The dark triad, quite an engaging subject in the field of psychology, consists of three “dark” traits: narcissism (indicating arrogance, pride, and egotism), psychopathy (characterized by a lack of remorse or empathy) and Machiavellianism (deceptive and exploitative behavior). Interestingly, psychopathy is considered the worst of the three traits or personality disorders that someone could demonstrate.

Personally, however, I believe a person who manipulates and deceives other human beings to achieve personal success, a  Machiavellian in short, sets the bar extremely low, even psychopaths can’t do worse than that. Opinions will obviously vary, depending on what you believe and your life experience.  There is really no point in deciding which attribute is the most harmful because even though their definitions are completely different in theory, studies have shown that three people, each exhibiting a different trait of the dark triad, will have more than a few similar aspects to their personality. Therefore, practically, these traits may not be as far apart as they initially seem to be.

What with these horrifying traits all grouped together by psychologists, it seems only fitting that sadism should be a part of the little gang too. I mean inflicting pain on others just for the fun of it? Seems pretty dark triad/tetrad worthy, so why hasn’t sadism gotten the honor it deserves? Well, while the original three members have been researched quite often with different measures of assessment assigned to them, sadism was said to be difficult to evaluate or estimate. It is actually quite a deep and complex personality trait. Let’s look more into the complications it entails. But before we do, check out our article on the 11 Cities with the Highest Demand for Psychologists, if you are a psychologist looking for a job.

Is Sadism a Disorder?

One of the commonly asked questions that detect sadism is whether it is a psychological disorder. Sadly, that is not a simple yes or no question. While some sources claim that it is a disorder, Psychnet for example, some just consider it a characteristic that a person possesses. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) leans towards the latter. In its latest version of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, sadism has not been classified as a personality disorder. That makes sense too, since we have all, at least once in our lives, encountered people who appear to be relishing others’ pain. Are they all suffering from personality disorders? Well, not unless they are sexual sadists, which brings us to sexual sadism disorder.

Sexual Sadism Disorder

This condition is recognized by APA as a personality disorder and is defined by the organization as:

“recurrent and intense sexual arousal from the physical or psychological suffering of another person, as manifested by fantasies, urges, or behaviors”

Although consent usually does not matter to a person suffering from sexual sadism disorder, it can be disturbing to learn that some patients actually prefer a non-consenting sexual partner.


Next in line on our list of questions that detect sadism is another term that is often used in relation to sexual sadism disorder is sadomasochism. Sadism and masochism are opposites but it’s astonishing to note that the two traits are not mutually exclusive. Such a person not only finds inflicting pain sexually pleasing but also receiving pain. This condition is recognized as a disease by the World Health Organization and is different from BDSM where both the participants explicitly consent to the activity. However, the 9 questions to detect sadism that we’re going to enlist below do not relate to sexual sadism but are for assessing “everyday sadism”, terminology that is commonly being used by psychologists these days.

Everyday Sadism

As discussed above, sadism is considered more of a choice or a trait than a disorder, which is why people started using the words everyday sadism to describe the condition. But how exactly can this feature be measured, so to say? That’s exactly where the test comes in. A new test has been developed by experts called the Assessment of Sadistic Personality (ASP). It originally comprised of twenty questions which were later reduced to nine. This was done to keep the questions more relevant to sadism and to prevent them from overlapping the other traits of the dark triad. Without further ado, let’s list them down.

The Test

People taking the test are required to rate each of the following on a scale of one to five, that is from completely disagree to complete agree. So, here are some of the questions that detect sadism.

1. I have made fun of people so that they know I am in control.

2. I never get tired of pushing people around.

3. I would hurt somebody if it meant I would be in control.

4. When I mock someone, it’s funny to see them get upset.

5. Being mean to others can be exciting.

6. I get pleasure from mocking people in front of their friends.

7. Watching people get into fights excites me.

8. I think about hurting people who irritate me.

9. I would not purposely hurt anybody, even if I didn’t like them.

202 students took this test when the study was first devised and the conclusion reached by researchers was that it is a reliable evaluation of sadism, one that is compatible with the measures of the rest of the Dark Triad. But we will have to see what the future holds for sadism as a subject for psychologists, now that this test of 9 questions that detect sadism has been developed.