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COVID Rules Don't Apply: Narcissists Shun Masks, Vaccines

MONDAY, May 16, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- Narcissists' belief that it's 'all about them' can make them less likely to wear a mask or get vaccinated during the pandemic, a new study shows.

Researchers analyzed data gathered from 1,100 U.S. adults in March 2021. They were asked about their mask use and vaccination views and behaviors, and they also completed assessments to measure their levels of narcissism.

After controlling for factors such as personal politics, state policies and perception of risk, the study authors found that people who scored higher in grandiose narcissism -- characterized by the pursuit of social status and a desire for others to see them as important and worthy of admiration -- were less likely to wear a mask or get vaccinated.

Those narcissists who did use masks were more likely to tell others to put them on, according to the study. The findings were published recently in the journal Current Psychology.

People higher in what's known as "vulnerable narcissism" -- which features selfishness and egocentrism or being especially sensitive to judgment from others -- were also less likely to wear a mask or get vaccinated if they were more self-centered and egocentric. But they were more likely to use a mask if they were more sensitive to feeling judged.

The findings could help shape messaging about preventive measures in future pandemics, the researchers suggested.

"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," reasoned Peter Hatemi, a professor of political science at Penn State University.

"For those oversensitive 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," Hatemi added in a university news release.

"We all have some level of grandiose and vulnerable narcissism," Hatemi said. "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."

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on narcissism.

SOURCE: Penn State University, news release, May 10, 2022

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