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Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
May 11, 2022
2 min read

Those with high narcissism less likely to follow COVID-19 mitigation strategies

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
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People with higher levels of narcissism were less likely to follow COVID-19 mitigation strategies, such as masking and vaccination, researchers reported in Current Psychology.

Peter K. Hatemi, of Pennsylvania State University, and Zoltán Fazekas, of Copenhagen Business School, assessed the effects of grandiose and vulnerable narcissism on whether people were more or less likely to wear a face mask in public or receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Source: Adobe Stock.
Source: Adobe Stock.

They collected data in March 2021 from 1,100 U.S. adults by phone and internet through YouGov. Respondents were surveyed about mask-wearing, vaccination status, vaccine views and behaviors, and concern about COVID-19.

“In a time when people were being encouraged to wear a mask or get vaccinated to help not just themselves but also other people, there was one personality trait that stuck out to us as a possible explanation for those that didn't want to comply,” Hatemi, distinguished professor of political science, said in a released statement from Penn State. “My coauthor and I had been researching narcissism in other capacities for quite some time, and it seemed like it could be strongly linked to these types of behaviors.”

Hatemi and Fazekas measured grandiose narcissism by 25 items on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI), the most used assessment of narcissism in the general public. They measured vulnerable narcissism on the 10-item Hypersensitive Narcissism Scale, similar to the NPI.

Results were controlled for personal politics, perception of risk and state policies, as well as gender, age, race and ethnicity, and education.

Participants who scored higher for grandiose narcissism were less likely to wear a mask, which was especially true for the subgroup who reported entitlement and/or exploitative behaviors. Those who scored higher for vulnerable narcissism were less likely to wear a mask if they had egocentric and self-centered personalities, but were more likely to wear a mask if they also were sensitive to judgment.

“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. “For those over-sensitive 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.”

Similar findings were reported in terms of vaccination. People with higher scores for grandiose and vulnerable narcissism, and especially those with authority-seeking behaviors and a sense of entitlement, were less likely to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

“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.”


People high in narcissism less likely to comply with COVID-19 mitigations. Published May 11, 2022.