There might be a reason why certain people are breaking social distancing measures.
Since the US went into lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March, social distancing and quarantine have become the norm across the country. In almost all places, face coverings and masks were designated as musts when heading out of your house, whether it was for a walk around the block or going to the supermarket. But even as mask-wearing and social distancing have been proven as a way to limit the spread of the deadly virus, those with dark personality traits are not as abiding by social distancing measures, according to a new study.
A study peer-reviewed and set to appear in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science determined dark traits like psychopathy, meanness, and disinhibition endorsed safety health behaviors less to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. That means narcissism and Machiavellianism impacted a person’s willingness to follow safety protocols, according to researchers.
Dr. Pavel Blagov of Whitman College told PsyPost that he thought personality could play a role in how people were reacting when social distancing measures were first introduced months ago.
“My experience as a psychological scientist as well as a practicing psychologist has convinced me that the importance of psychology and behavior in the prevention and management of a wide range of health problems is enormous,” he said.
“This includes personality, or the study of important ways in which people differ. It was clear from reports in the media very early in the COVID-19 pandemic that some people were rejecting advice to socially distance and engage in increased hygiene. There can be many reasons for this, and I thought that personality may play at least a small role in it.”
The study surveyed 502 US adults between three days in March. Researchers had participants complete an online survey regarding health recommendations, which focused on whether participants would comply and how they would react were they to become sick. The survey also measured personality.
While most participants were likely to comply with safety regulations recommended by world health leaders, the study found participants with lower levels of agreeableness and conscientiousness were less likely to follow regulations. Participants who scored higher for meanness and disinhibition were less likely to partake in social distancing, according to the study.
“People scoring high on these traits tended to claim that, if they had COVID-19, they might knowingly or deliberately expose others to it,” Blagov saod.
“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.”