It is hard to get entitled people to follow instructions, study finds

If you believe that you’re just more deserving than others, you’re probably not too fond of following instructions. People with a greater sense of entitlement are less likely to follow instructions than less entitled people, according to new research published in Social Psychological and Personality Science.

“I have done some other research projects in which I examined people’s sense of entitlement. It seemed like I was having difficulty testing my hypotheses in some studies because the highly entitled participants were not following my instructions,” explained study author Emily M. Zitek of Cornell University.

“This observation also seemed to fit with the comments of some managers and professors about their employees and students–their entitled subordinates ignored their instructions and then had a lot of complaints about it later. (It seems like the subordinates would have been better off if they had followed the instructions from the beginning–so why didn’t they?) After these observations, I wanted to empirically test whether entitled people are indeed more likely to ignore instructions and, if so, why this is the case.”

In a series of six studies, which included a total of 1,259 participants, the researchers found that entitled people were more likely to blow off instructions. More entitled people were also more likely to say they would ignore instructions from others in hypothetical scenarios.

The studies attempted to convince entitled people to follow instructions in a variety of ways. But none worked.

“One of the main things I learned is that it is hard to get entitled people to follow instructions to the same degree as less entitled individuals,” Zitek told PsyPost. “We tried various things that didn’t work–making the instructions seem less personally costly to follow, making the instructions seem optional, and emphasizing the likelihood of punishment–but nothing worked.”

“It seemed like entitled people weren’t following instructions because they believed the instructions were an unfair imposition on them. Future research should examine how to get entitled individuals to follow instructions.”

The researchers noted that things tend to run more smoothly when people are willing to follow instructions.

“It would be good to try to figure out how to make instructions seem fairer and see if, as I am proposing, this will get entitled individuals to be more likely to follow instructions,” Zitek said. “Of course, authority figures don’t want to cater to the entitled individuals too much by justifying all instructions — this could just make the entitled individuals even more entitled down the line. But in general, people are more likely to follow instructions that seem legitimate, and maybe this is especially true for entitled people.”

“When entitled individuals fail to follow instructions, they will likely get punished. They will probably see that punishment as unjust, and this could cause them to feel even more entitled in the future (as my other research shows that unjust treatment causes people to have an even higher sense of entitlement).”

The study, “Psychological Entitlement Predicts Failure to Follow Instructions“, was co-authored by Alexander H. Jordan.