Some people with “dark personality traits” may actually have enjoyed the pandemic, according to a study.
Researchers from the University of Mississippi surveyed 402 people aged between 18 and 78, and assessed them for personality attributes such as psychopathy, narcissism, sadism and Machiavellianism.
They found that “dark” personality characteristics affected the way people behaved in the pandemic, although it should be noted that this is a small study, ScienceAlert reported.
The research is published in the journal Personal and Individual Differences.
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The researchers write in their paper: “Our findings indicate that during the initial stages of the pandemic in the United States, dark personality differentially predicted cognitive and emotional responses to the pandemic.”
Sadists in particular, may have enjoyed the pandemic, the scientists said.
“Interestingly, sadism was associated with greater positive affect in response to the pandemic.
“Sadism has been associated with taking pleasure in the suffering of others, so sadistic individuals may experience more positive emotions in situations like the pandemic that appear to negatively impact the quality of people's daily lives.”
People with other “dark personality traits” were less likely to observe instructions about cleaning their homes, the researchers found.
The researchers wrote: “Dark personality traits did show some significant associations with other pandemic behaviours.
“For instance, those who were higher in narcissism and psychopathy reported being less likely to clean regularly touched surfaces in their home, possibly reflecting their tendency to be impulsive and devalue the future consequences of their actions.”
The research found that people with narcissistic traits were actually more likely to indulge in kind, helpful behaviour – possibly to reap the resulting admiration from people around them.
Other “dark triad” personality attributes such as narcissism and Machiavellianism could also impact people’s willingness to comply with social distancing rules, a study suggested.
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The research hinted that people with such traits may even have played a larger part in the spread of the virus, by ignoring restrictions such as social distancing, said Dr Pavel Blagov of Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington.
Blagov’s study suggests that people with psychopathic personality traits such as meanness are less likely to comply with lockdown restrictions.
Those with psychopathic traits such as poor impulse control were more likely to boast of behaviours that put others at risk, Blagov told Psypost.
He said: “My experience as a psychological scientist as well as a practising psychologist has convinced me that the importance of psychology and behaviour in the prevention and management of a wide range of health problems is enormous.
“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.