Political strategies

Those with high narcissism are less likely to follow COVID-19 mitigation strategies

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People with higher levels of narcissism were less likely to follow COVID-19 mitigation strategies, such as masking and vaccination, researchers reported in current psychology.

Rock K Hatemifrom Pennsylvania State University, and Zoltan Fazekasfrom Copenhagen Business School, assessed the effects of grandiose and vulnerable narcissism on whether people were more or less likely to wear a face mask in public or receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

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They collected data in March 2021 from 1,100 American adults by phone and internet through YouGov. Respondents were asked about mask wearing, vaccination status, vaccine opinions and behaviors, and concerns about COVID-19.

“At a time when people were encouraged to wear a mask or get vaccinated to help not only themselves but others, there was one personality trait that stood out to us as a possible explanation for those who were unwilling to comply,” Hatemi, a distinguished political science professor, said in a statement published by Penn State. “My co-author and I had been researching narcissism in other capacities for some time, and it seemed like it could be strongly linked to these types of behaviors.”

Hatemi and Fazekas measured grandiose narcissism by 25 items on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI), the most widely used assessment of narcissism in the general public. They measured vulnerable narcissism on the 10-point Hypersensitive Narcissism Scale, similar to the NPI.

Results controlled for personal politics, risk perception, and state policies, as well as gender, age, race and ethnicity, and education.

Participants who scored higher for grandiose narcissism were less likely to wear a mask, which was especially true for the subgroup that reported entitlement and/or exploitative behaviors. Those who scored higher for vulnerable narcissism were less likely to wear a mask if they had egocentric and self-centered personalities, but were more likely to wear a mask if they were also judgmentally sensitive.

“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 meet their need to stand out,” Hatemi said. “For those who are too sensitive to judgement, you could tell them that mitigation is socially sanctioned. Both of these strategies seem to tap into those personalities more than emphasize the greater good, for example.

Similar results have been reported in terms of vaccination. People with higher scores of grandiose and vulnerable narcissism, and especially those with authority-seeking behaviors and a sense of entitlement, were less likely to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

“We all have some level of grandiose and vulnerable narcissism,” Hatemi said. “It’s a natural part of every human’s personality because without it we wouldn’t function properly. But that part of the narcissism that we all have, it can be easily fueled by political messaging and hijacked into these different stories, that’s what we’ve seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Highly narcissistic people are less likely to comply with COVID-19 mitigation measures. https://www.psu.edu/news/story/people-high-narcissism-less-likely-comply-covid-19-mitigations/. Posted May 11, 2022.