Some people really do just live for the drama. As a recent study published in Personality and Individual Differences suggests, a person's need for drama can be measured on a sliding scale. It may just be a personality trait that certain among us possess in particularly high degrees, based on a couple of key behavioral tendencies.
One of the study's lead authors, Scott Frankowski — a researcher at the University of Texas at El Paso — told Science of Us that he hit upon the notion of a drama trait while contemplating the ever-turbulent life of a coworker. "How is your life just this cycle of crisis?" he asked himself of his colleague, who apparently spent much of her time inflating inconsequential daily hurdles into monumental roadblocks.
He thought of said coworker again while musing on the "it's complicated" Facebook relationship status that less-subtle users adopt without irony. And thus he began to wonder if there wasn't "some underlying trait to this — something that is driving people to have lives filled with chaos."
Frankowski and his team developed the aforementioned "need for drama" scale, which curious readers can access over at Science of Us and which puts the dramatic urge somewhere between "pathological" and "A Thing." Charting the behavioral responses of some 500 volunteer subjects, the researchers noted a few patterns.
The first was that people who tested high for dramatic tendencies were also impulsive, more likely to let fly with their unfiltered thoughts as soon as those surfaced in their mind spaces. One can see where such constant and unabashed candor might create some sticky situations.
The highly dramatic also tended to "see the world as happening to them, which likely makes them more reactive to perceived slights," according to Frankowski. This is the type who is always complaining about the lemons life is throwing their way, disregarding the moves they made to set the lemon-throwing in motion. They are the victim, no matter what, and so they talk about it. Incessantly. Chances are, you know this person.
What didn't have any bearing on natural drama proclivities? A person's sex, which is welcome news for women who feel as though their legitimate grievances are too often met with the "you're being hysterical" or, of course, the "stop being so dramatic" response. Men, Frankowski and his team found, were just as drama-hungry as women.
"Clinicians have always labeled women with these traits but my thought was I know a lot of men who are also exhibit these very dramatic personality traits," he told Science of Us, reiterating what many women have always known to be true: Men are just as likely to start shit. And it makes sense — who is more likely to react to perceived slights than those of fragile masculinity?