Are narcissists less likely to wear a mask? A study published in Current Psychology suggests that the relationship is a bit more complicated that one may think. Different facets of narcissism are associated with different responds to mask-wearing expectations.
The rise of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to behaviors that can benefit public health becoming much more prevalent in everyday discourse than before. Wearing masks and getting vaccinated are ways to stop the spread of the virus but have been framed as inconvenient and stifling freedoms by many. Mask-wearing in particular has become a point of contention due to the high visibility of it.
Narcissists are by definition self-absorbed. Grandiose narcissism involves a sense of superiority and entitlement and people who are high in grandiose narcissism are likely to ignore the needs of others and not exhibit reciprocity when someone else does something to benefit them. Alternatively, vulnerable narcissism also includes entitlement and egocentricism, but people high in vulnerable narcissism are likely to be very sensitive to rejection and judgment.
Study authors Peter K. Hatemi and Zoltan Fazekas utilized a sample of 1,100 U.S. adults. Their sampling method was based on the U.S. Census selection. Data was collected over the internet and by phone. Participants were asked questions about mask-wearing and vaccination-related behaviors and attitudes. Participants also completed measures on grandiose and vulnerable narcissism.
Results showed that people high in grandiose narcissism were less likely to wear a mask, as the researchers hypothesized. Vulnerable narcissism, however, has a more complicated relationship with mask-wearing due to egocentrism being associated with less mask-wearing and sensitivity to criticism being related to more mask-wearing. Belief that others should wear a mask strongly mirrored these results, with the judgment oversensitivity facet of vulnerable narcissism being most highly related. Vaccination patterns also showed similar patterns, with people high in grandiose narcissism being less likely to get vaccinated.
This was true even after the researchers controlled for personal politics, perception of risk, state policies, and other important demographic factors.
“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,” Hatemi said in a news release. “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.”
This study took strides into understanding narcissism and public health behavior in the COVID-19 pandemic, but it still has its limitations. One such limitation is that this study asked for opinions and did not measure actual actions, which do not always line up perfectly. Additionally, there are a myriad of factors that affect masking and vaccination behaviors, and this study cannot address or control for them all.
The study, “The role of grandiose and vulnerable narcissism on mask wearing and vaccination during the COVID-19 pandemic“, was published April 14, 2022.