You’d think that narcissists would only believe in themselves, right? Apparently, that’s not always the case according to science.
A recent article published in the Current Opinion in Psychology journal explores the possible reasons why narcissists may be inclined to believe in conspiracy theories. The article is entitled “Why do narcissists find conspiracy theories so appealing?”
What exactly are conspiracy theories? It’s the belief that an event or a situation, often tragic, is caused by secret powerful groups. One of the latest conspiracy theories involves the pandemic. Yes, conspiracy theorists have come up with multiple beliefs about COVID-19 pandemic; a famous belief about it is that the virus was specifically created as a biological weapon by government entities.
According to the researchers, narcissism is believed to have three components: antagonism, agentic extraversion, and neuroticism. They believe that these three components play a role in the tendency for a person to believe conspiracy theories.
“Specifically, we discuss the role of paranoia, gullibility, and the needs for dominance, control, and uniqueness,” they wrote.
With multiple data points from different studies and from different sets of people, they were able to suggest that narcissism is one of the best psychological predictors of conspiracy beliefs. The researchers focused on four psychological mechanisms that could explain this bizarre correlation.
First on the researcher’s list is paranoia. They believe that a narcissist’s heightened paranoia is responsible for them believing conspiracy theories because it feeds their fear of being intentionally harmed or that someone’s “out to get them.”
“It is at least plausible that paranoid convictions that others threaten the self can spill into conspiracy beliefs about society being threatened more broadly.”
Need For Control/Dominance
The need for control or dominance is under the antagonism factor. The researchers believe that narcissists tend to gravitate toward conspiracy theories in order to cope with some kind of defeat or things that don’t go their way.
“Conspiracy theories can help blame others for one’s failures or misfortunes as they identify a specific group that could be used as a ‘scapegoat.’”
Need For Uniqueness
In the eyes of conspiracy theorists, they’re kind of one of a kind. They have some kind of “against the grain” mentality. This falls under the Grandiose narcissism factor, as they have the need to exaggerate their importance.
“High need for uniqueness likely increases the appeal of conspiracy theories because they promise access to privileged information, making one feel special.”
Lastly, we have gullibility. Again, you’d think that narcissists could only trust themselves, right? But the researchers say that narcissists tend to be naive and “less likely to engage in cognitive reflection.” Based on past studies, the researchers found that narcissism, both grandiose and vulnerable, is associated with a predisposition towards odd and unusual beliefs, like conspiracy theories.
“In a study by Ahadzadeh and colleagues, the link between narcissism and endorsement of COVID-19 conspiracy theories was especially pronounced among those who were not skeptical towards social media posts in the first place.”
In addition to all of the above, the researchers also mentioned how these same components of individual narcissism apply to those in collective narcissism. The researchers say that collective narcissism is linked to beliefs in anti-science conspiracy theories– climate change and the pandemic again, as examples.
“These associations are typically explained by the exaggerated intergroup threat sensitivity of collective narcissists, analogous to the paranoia and threat sensitivity of individual narcissists.”
In this digital age where information is almost always just one click away, people tend to stay informed using social media. Unfortunately, social media as a news source isn’t reliable. Misinformation and disinformation is rampant and are designed to stir fear in us.
“Narcissists’ craving for validation and recognition is likely to have implications not only for their beliefs but also for their behaviours. For example, on social media, narcissists might be ready to share anything that promises to generate engagement and attention. As conspiracy theories are entertaining and elicit strong emotions, they might serve as attractive content to distribute.”
My take on how to avoid believing in conspiracy theories? Always double-check sources and avoid using social media platforms to do this. And confirmation bias is your enemy. Do multiple searches if you must on whatever you read about that’s captured your attention.Whizzco