Psychologists have found that the "Dark Triad" of personality, which includes psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism, was linked to a reduced engagement with COVID-19 prevention behaviors during the epidemic. However, this does not appear to be entirely true for another set of traits known as the "vulnerable Dark Triad."
'Research has shown that psychopathy is distinct from anxiety levels even since the 1940s,' said study author Alyson E. Blanchard of the University of Salford.
“Primary psychopathy describes someone who is cold, nasty, and manipulative, while secondary psychopathy describes someone who is antisocial, risk-taking, sensation-seeking, and who is much more reactive.”
"Congruently, similar differences are evident in narcissism," explained Blanchard. The most familiar type of individual who is egotistical and believes they are superior to everyone else is described, while the vulnerable (covert) narcissist behaves similarly but becomes hostile and antagonistic when other people disagree.
"Despite this work, the Dark Triad only considers its constituent parts as mono-constructs, and there is ongoing debate about what makes Machiavellianism - whether it is simply psychopathy or something entirely unique."
“I am interested in seeing if Dark Triad traits differ from those of the vulnerable Dark Triad’s neurotic counterpart, which consists of secondary psychopathy, vulnerable narcissism, and borderline personality disorder.”
The 263 participants completed surveys on COVID-19 prevention behavior, fear of COVID-19, and perceived coronavirus severity. They also completed assessments on primary psychopathy, secondary psychopathy, grandiose narcissism, vulnerable narcissism, and borderline personality disorder. The participants were recruited during April 2021 via Amazon's Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing platform.
Blanchard and her colleagues concluded that those who embraced narcissism viewed COVID-19 as less serious (e.g., "no more severe than the flu") and believed in COVID-19 conspiracy theories, which in turn was associated with decreased COVID-19 prevention behaviors, such as handwashing.
In part, those who were more active in primary and secondary psychopathic traits took the epidemic less seriously, which led to a decreased willingness to participate in COVID-19 prevention activities.
Blanchard said people who were uncaring and self-centred took the epidemic less seriously and engaged in less prevention activities.
According to the researchers, Vulnerable narcissism was not directly or indirectly linked to COVID-19 prevention behavior. "Perhaps people who are high in these traits are concerned about things they consider to be more important, such as interpersonal situations," says the study.
"This paper further demonstrates that individuals with high affinity for these traits respond to situations differently," Blanchard said. "While Dark Triad research is impressive at a larger level, detail is missed when subtypes of low agreeable traits are not studied."
It is critically important that popular culture's portrayal of psychopathy and narcissism be consistent with the scientific literature, according to Blanchard. "There are also implications for discussions about whether individuals are "born" evil - understanding the differences in developmental pathways should provide context for investigating how low pleasant and antisocial behaviors manifest."
COVID-19 was perceived by those with higher borderline personality traits as less severe, but they were also more averse to the virus, which was linked to greater involvement in prevention activities, according to the researchers.
"Further research should be done simultaneously to investigate the Dark Triad and the vulnerable Dark Triad together, so that a better understanding of these characteristics may be gained," Blanchard said.
Alyson E. Blanchard, Greg Keenan, Nadja Heym, and Alex Sumich contributed to the paper. "COVID-19 prevention behavior is differentially influenced by primary psychopathy, grandiose narcissism, and vulnerable Dark Triad traits."