Differences in personality traits that can explain why people do and do not comply with COVID-19 protective measures (e.g., social distancing, mask wearing). New research published in Personality and Individual Differences found that aspects of psychopathy and sadism were associated with less compliance with protective measures and more health/safety risk taking. Aspects of Machiavellianism were associated with less willingness to get vaccinated.
Research has shown that personality traits are relevant to people’s decisions to get vaccinated against COVID-19. “People with higher Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, and Emotional Stability were found to be more accepting toward the idea of getting vaccinated, or, in case of Conscientiousness, even supporting mandatory vaccination in some circumstances,” wrote Iva Konc and colleagues in their study.
The Dark Tetrad of personality traits, which includes Machiavellianism (deviousness), narcissism (self-proclaimed exceptionalism), psychopathy (defiant recklessness), and sadism (violent tendencies), are associated generally with noncompliance of protective measures. One explanation of this is that people high in dark traits tend to engage in risky behaviors and complying with protective measures is considered a risk averse behavior.
To examine the relationship between Dark Tetrad traits and compliance with COVID-19 protective measures, researchers recruited a sample of 348 adult participants from the general population on Facebook in February and March of 2021.
Participants were measured for the Dark Tetrad traits, risk-taking behavior (ethical, health/safety, and recreational risks), and how often they complied with COVID-19 protective measures. They were also asked whether they supported getting a vaccine or not.
Results show that higher recklessness (aspect of psychopathy) and violent voyeurism (aspect of sadism) had small negative effects on compliance with protective measures; however, this effect disappeared when health/safety risk taking behavior was taken into account. In other words, one’s tendency toward health/safety risk taking could fully explain the relationship between psychopathy and sadism on low rates of compliance.
High deviousness (aspect of Machiavellianism) was associated with less willingness to get vaccinated. When health/safety risk taking behavior was taken into account, the effect of Machiavellianism remained. Put another way, high Machiavellianism is associated with less willingness toward vaccination regardless of one’s tendency toward health/safety risks.
Overall, these results align with the study author’s expectations. “Results are generally in line with previous studies in which dark traits, except narcissism, showed negative effects on COVID-19 protective behaviors,” wrote the researchers.
The researchers note that the observed effects were generally small for this study. “One of the explanations could be ‘strong situation hypothesis’ according to which personality traits have less room to play an important role in predicting behaviors in a strong situational context such as pandemic.”
They also note that their measures of the Dark Tetrad traits were shorter than those typically used thus future research should expand on this work with the longer multidimensional measures of these traits.
The study, “Dark Tetrad and COVID-19 protective measures: Mediating effects of risk-taking tendencies“, was authored by Iva Konc, Kristina Petrović, and Bojana M.Dinić.