With anti-mask protests popping up around the country and many people taking to social media to decry mask mandates, it’s becoming clear that not every American believes masks are necessary or that they should be required.
But why do some people resist the simple act of mask-wearing and other preventative measures, even when medical science demonstrates that doing so could save lives and help stop the spread of coronavirus?
One new study from the journal Personality and Individual Differences suggests that those who resist wearing masks could be doing so because they suffer from narcissism.
European researchers surveyed over 750 people in Poland and found that those who reported hoarding food, flouting stay-at-home-orders and defying other coronavirus safety measures like hand-washing were more likely to have narcissistic, Machiavellian and psychopathic personality traits. Together, these characteristics are referred to as the Dark Triad.
According to the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition” (or DSM-V, the manual used by the American Psychiatric Association to classify mental disorders), people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are more likely to have “a grandiose sense of self-importance,” a belief that they are “‘special’ and unique,” and have “a sense of entitlement.” According to the DSM-V, people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder also generally lack empathy and are “unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.”
The study found that those with Dark Triad traits participated in more hoarding and less preventative behavior. Meanwhile, those with “collective narcissistic” traits, in which they believe their own communal group is unique and special, focused more on just hoarding.
This is not the first time that research has suggested that people who may have traits consistent with a personality disorder are more likely to actively oppose pandemic safety measures.
Another study, published this month in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science, found that people who didn’t want to participate in healthy practices to help “flatten the curve” of coronavirus cases (such as hand-washing and social distancing) were more likely to have traits of meanness, neuroticism and lack of restraint, all of which fall under the umbrella of psychopathy in the DSM-V.
“One potential implication from this research is that there may be a minority of people with particular personality styles (on the narcissism and psychopathy spectrum) that have a disproportionate impact on the pandemic by failing to protect themselves and others,” study author Pavel Blagov told PsyPost.