People with narcissistic traits are more likely to ignore pandemic safety guidelines, such as hand-washing and staying home

Crystal Cox/Insider
  • A new study suggests that people with narcissistic traits are more likely to hoard toilet paper, and skip out on handwashing and stay-at-home orders.
  • This isn’t the first study to suggest narcissists defy pandemic public-safety recommendations.
  • With the right messaging, certain types of narcissists could be convinced to partake in more preventive measures, the study found.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A new study adds to existing evidence that narcissists, people who lack empathy and have a heightened sense of self-importance, are more likely to ignore pandemic safety guidelines and advice.

For the study, researchers surveyed 755 people in Poland about their personalities and pandemic safety habits. They collected answers between March 15 and March 29, the third and fourth weeks of Poland’s government-mandated lockdown.

The researchers found people who had higher levels of “dark triad” personality traits – narcissism, Machiavellianism (characterised by manipulation and a lack of morals), and psychopathy (characterised by impulsivity and lack of empathy) – were more likely to hoard supplies during the pandemic, a practice that can lead to food and other supply shortages.

They were also less likely to wash their hands and more likely to follow stay at home orders, two measures recommended for preventing coronavirus spread.

Some narcissists could be convinced to change their habits

Not all narcissists are motivated by the same factors, so some could be convinced to wash their hands with the right messaging, study author Magdalena Zemojtel-Piotrowska told PsyPost.

Her team found that it mattered what kind of narcissist they were dealing with: a collective narcissist or an agentic narcissist.

Collective narcissists, who get their sense self-importance from how their inner circle views them, were more likely to hoard supplies, but they were still more likely to do preventive measures like hand-washing.

Agentic narcissists, who don’t need others to justify feeling self-important, were more likely to hoard supplies and also more likely to skip out on hand-washing,

According to Zemojtel-Piotrowska, that’s because agentic narcissists don’t believe preventive measures will help them personally, and they find the effort required to take precautions outweighs the personal benefits.

There are ways to convince narcissists to do the right thing

The key, she said, is trying to offer narcissists the right motivation.

“[T]he main practical finding is that we could encourage egocentric ‘dark’ people to adopt preventative measures by showing them that prevention works and it is not as demanding as they seem to assume,” Zemojtel-Piotrowska told PsyPost.

There were limitations to the study, which was published on July 15 in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. The researchers only looked at people in Poland, so the results might not be generalizable on a global scale. Poland hasn’t been as affected by the coronavirus pandemic as others countries, and Zemojtel-Piotrowska said that could’ve skewed the findings too.

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