A study published in the journal of Personality and Individual Differences found that Machiavellianism, primary psychopathy, and collective narcissism positively predicted belief in COVID-19 conspiracies. Further, COVID-19 conspiracy beliefs explained the negative relationship between these dark personality traits and the willingness to obtain a future COVID-19 vaccine.
Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and collective narcissism have been previously linked to conspiracy mentality. Machiavellianism is concerned with the strategic manipulation of others. Primary psychopathy is characterized by callousness and lack of emotion, while secondary psychopathy is characterized by impulsivity and antisociality. Collective narcissism refers to an inflated sense of superiority extending to one’s in-group.
Individuals who score high in the Dark Triad traits tend to report greater levels of hostility toward the out-group. Further, given these traits enable manipulative and exploitative lifestyles, it is plausible that such individuals are more susceptible to conspiratorial beliefs, which may stem from their personal cynical views and attempts to manipulate others.
A total of 406 citizens of the United Kingdom were invited to partake in an online survey. Participants completed various personality measures assessing for Machiavellianism, primary and secondary psychopathy, as well as collective narcissism. Additionally, participants completed a questionnaire assessing for conspiracist ideation, relating to both general and COVID-19 specific conspiratorial beliefs. For example, participants rated their agreement to statements such as “there is no hard evidence that COVID really exists.” Participants also rated their willingness to disseminate each theory. Lastly, they indicated their intention to get vaccinated against COVID-19, if a vaccine were to be tested, approved, and available to them the following week.
Sara Hughes and Laura Machan found that belief in COVID-19 conspiracies explained the negative associations between collective narcissism, Machiavellianism, both primary and secondary psychopathy, and willingness to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Further, COVID-19 conspiracy beliefs explained the positive association between collective narcissism, psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and the intentional sharing of COVID-19 conspiracies.
This research replicates and extends upon prior findings that collective narcissism is positively associated with conspiratorial beliefs and the intentional sharing of COVID-19 conspiracies.
The researchers note three potential limitations. First, rather than obtaining behavioral measures, participants were prompted to provide self-report ratings of their intentions to disseminate COVID-19 conspiracies. Second, given participants’ knowledge relating to COVID-19 was not assessed, it could be the case that those with greater beliefs in Covid-19 conspiracies were lacking in factual knowledge. Lastly, given the cross-sectional nature of this work, the researchers do not make causal inferences about their findings.
The study, “It’s a conspiracy: Covid-19 conspiracies link to psychopathy, Machiavellianism and collective narcissism”, was authored by Sara Hughes and Laura Machan.