Research reveals that people high in grandiose narcissism are less likely to wear a mask or get vaccinated
A study finds that people with higher levels of grandiose narcissism are less likely to follow COVID regulations, while those high in vulnerable narcissism had a similar perspective.
The findings, published in Current Psychology, could be used to help shape messaging in the future.
Personality can heavily influence healthcare decisions
In the past, research found that conservatives were less likely to feel vulnerable to the virus or to find the virus to be a serious threat. This exploration of perspectives also found that this demographic were more likely to believe that the danger of the COVID-19 virus was exaggerated.
Politics though, is not enough to explain the behaviour and perspectives of all people. In separate abortion attitude research conducted across New Zealand and the US, researchers revealed that personality was a powerful component of how opinions are formed.
How can personality shape perception of science?
Narcissism, which often appears as a personality disorder or as part of a spectrum, can make an individual very charming and charismatic. They also exhibit a pattern of self-centered behaviour, arrogant thinking, a lack of empathy and consideration for other people, alongside an excessive need for admiration.
Peter Hatemi, Professor of Political Science at Penn State, US, led a research team in the investigation of how two types of narcissism shape COVID perspectives. The study collected information from a nationally representative sample of 1,100 US adults, in March 2021.
They asked participants several questions about COVID mask-wearing, as well as vaccine behaviours and attitudes. Participants also filled out assessments designed to measure levels of narcissism in their personality, then they were asked about how worried they personally felt about COVID.
Grandiose narcissism was linked to a likelihood of avoiding public health measures
Hatemi said: “We all have some level of grandiose and vulnerable narcissism. It’s a natural part of all humans’ personalities because without it, we wouldn’t function properly.
“But this part of narcissism we all have, it can get easily fed by political messaging and hijacked into these different stories, which is what we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Even after they removed bias for personal politics, perception of risk, state policies and other demographics, the team saw that participants higher in grandiose narcissism were less likely to get vaccinated or wear a mask.
However, when individuals with grandiose narcissism were supportive of public health measures, they were also more likely to tell other people to wear a mask.
“If you want to convince someone high in grandiose narcissism to wear a mask or participate in other mitigations, make that mitigation cool and unique to fulfill their need to stand out,” Hatemi further said.
“For those over sensitive to judgment, you could tell them the mitigation is socially sanctioned. Both of these strategies seem to tap into these personalities more than emphasizing the greater good, for example.”