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Science of Psychometrics   | 6 Min Read

Science Of Psychometrics: How Dark Traits Shaped Walter White's Journey To Heisenberg

Written By Puneet
Breaking Bad was one of the most comprehensive TV shows in American history. The loyal fan base that once embraced the show continues to hold it in high regards. They refuse to believe that any other show with a dragon or perhaps three of them can surpass the popularity of this artistic marvel.

The show had everything from a partner who was an addict, and a high-school teacher turned criminal with a moral code to an overburdened housewife that eventually resorts to infidelity.

But most importantly, it had the downtrodden chemistry teacher who lived a below average life and was bullied by all. Someone who could have been a partner in a Billion Dollar company but instead, ends up at a completely different side of the spectrum simply due to one bad decision. It is in fact, the journey of Walter White in becoming Heisenberg that strikes a chord with the people who thereafter learned to stand up for themselves.

Breaking bad

But have you ever wondered what drove Walter White to the darkness? Or are you one of those people who failed to see things for what they really were?

Before we get to the dangling climax we have left you in, let us try to understand what Human Personality is collectively made of in the first place.

The Bright Side

The bright side comprises a person’s positive personality traits. It could be something like being considerate for others or perhaps simply being brave enough to face the challenges ahead of you.

This is something that we get to see in Walter White multiple times over the course of Season 1 and Season 2. For instance, when Hank was skeptical about visiting a therapist, Walter being the considerate brother in law talked him into it. He told him to let go off his fear and "Kick that bastard as hard as you can right in the teeth…"

The Dark Side

While the bright side is something we inherit, the dark side of our personality is something that we’re born with. It is often associated with destructive behaviour emerging from deep interpersonal problems.

Narcissists, Machiavellians, Psychopaths, and everyday sadists all have a dominant dark side in their personalities.

Although the makers of Breaking Bad have extensively showcased the dark side of the protagonist, most people associate it with Heisenberg and not Walter White. What we essentially mean is that people tend to believe that this was something that Walter was forced to become.

Motivations And Preference

The behaviour of a person can be particularly easy to understand once you know what motivates them. This side of their personality entirely depends on what truly drives them as a person. In fact, it is closely linked with a person’s upbringing, their childhood and the defining experiences in their life.

When we see Walter transforming into what we came to know as Heisenberg, everybody understood where he was coming from. That dark traits that he possessed were something that we thought was required in order to survive the chaos around him.

However, most of us fail to understand that this was the chaos that he built for himself. We see the psychotic side when he gets his son drunk just because he wanted to prove Hank wrong.

Cognitive Abilities

The cognitive abilities can simply be defined as the brain-based skills that are required to perform a certain task efficiently. Instead, it is all about how we learn, how we remember, or how we solve our real-world problems. Our ability to give attention to detail also falls under the umbrella of Cognitive Abilities.

We cannot think of a better example of Walter’s cognitive abilities than the RV sequence in Season three’s episode titled ‘Sunset.’ When both Jessie and Walter are stuck in the RV while Hank is investing the junkyard, Walter saves the day with his impeccable problem-solving skills. He arranged a fake call to Hank and made Saul lie that Hank’s wife had been involved in a fatal accident. As expected, Hank promptly drives out of there and rushes to see if his wife was okay.

Now that we have completely landscaped the human personality, let us get to where we left things off – The Concept of Heisenberg

Like we discussed, the majority of people see Heisenberg as something Walter White was forced to become. His poverty, his responsibilities or perhaps the confirmation of a certain encounter with death is all that motivated him to become the evil called Heisenberg. People see him as a vulnerable person who finally decides to stand up for himself. Or perhaps someone who finally seizes the opportunity after realizing life has been nothing but unfair to him.

However, the truth is, Walter White had a dominant dark side that leads him where he was. Cancer, the crippled son and the long list of bills had little role to play in what he became towards the second half of the show. The truth is, he was always an underachiever that constantly resented himself for selling his share of a Billion Dollar company to his partners for a mere $5000 earlier in his life.

We also get a sense of his dark side early on the series when he physically assaults his son’s bullies. He even goes on to set a petrol station patron’s car on fire just because he was arrogant. What follows is a scene that captures him smirking while he walks back to his car. It is there that we get to see the true dark side of the character who finally felt ‘alive.’

To put things into perspective, Walter White had multiple opportunities to get out of the business. He made enough money early on in the business to provide a comfortable life for his family. He could have even taken the money his previous partners offered him and ensured that his wife and son were looked after. However, he continues being what he is. Making meth was something that he was good at, and it was the business that gave a boost to his self-being. It all falls into place in the final episode when his wife confronts him that why did he not get out of it when he had the chance. He justifies everything by replying “I did it for me.”


You need to understand that it takes just a little push for someone like Walter White to show their true colours. If a hard working chemistry teacher who is true to his family/responsibilities can go on to become a drug lord, then your new hire with an incredible IQ can also land you in an equal bit of trouble.

What HRs Can Learn From The Concept Of Heisenberg?

HRs or managers are responsible for hiring the right talent in the organization. However, their hiring process primarily revolves around finding the positive personality traits that their business can benefit from. What they often fail to realize is that a person with the required skill set might still not be the right fit for the job. We say that because candidates with the right skills might have dominant dark sides to their personalities. Even something extremely insignificant can act as a trigger and affect their company’s work culture considerably.

Narcissism in the workplace is one of the most observed results of an inefficient hiring process. People who’re even mildly narcissist can have a major detrimental effect on the work culture of your organization. When their self-esteem is threatened, they might even end up indulging in counterproductive work behaviour. Counterproductive work behaviour, generally addressed as CWB essentially reflects the behaviour of an employee that is against the legitimate interest of the organization. If you have people working for their own personal goals and not the collective interests, you’re preparing your company for a slow death.

Some of them might go on to show signs of Machiavellianism. People with such dark traits in their personality will go to great lengths to lie and manipulate their peers in order to achieve their personal goals. Now we all know a manager or a team leader who manipulates to fulfill their own interests, don’t we?

In fact, dark traits do not only correspond with psychotic or narcissist behaviour. Someone who is easily stressed out or is unable to handle the pressure at the workplace can also be a associated with it. When put onto micromanaging positions, they tend to showcase their poor decision-making skills.

So how do you identify a potential Heisenberg right in the hiring process?

The HRs and hiring managers spends so much of their time in understanding if the candidate possesses the required skill for the position that they forget to evaluate if the person is the right fit for a place in their organization in the first place.

This is why it is important to assess the personality of a candidate before making the hiring decision. Now you may argue that these personality traits are impossible to be identified in an in-person interview and there is certainly no denying that. However, investing a little time in the hiring process and seeking the help of online assessment tools might be the perfect solution to the problem.

Our cognitive and psychometric test platform can accurately map the personality of an individual. It has become a standard part of the process in big corporations and is slowly penetrating into small organizations.

It helps you to understand how a person is likely to react when subjected to specific situations. We at Mettl allow you to create your own assessment tests to suit the position your HRs are looking to fill.

For instance, a specific role in the organization might require a person who has a certain dark trait to their personality. By introducing these tests to your hiring process, you leave nothing to chance and take the reins in your own hands.

Topics: Science of Psychometrics

Originally published May 06 2019,updated June 29 2019

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