What about good citizenship and narcissism?
When it comes to the qualities of a good citizen, most people would not mention narcissism. But as a new study on the personality of good citizens shows, the two are not mutually exclusive.
The study, conducted by a team of researchers, shows that one of the most striking characteristics of good citizenship is a trait rarely associated with civic virtue, namely narcissism.
Researchers gave a questionnaire to 371 Canadian voters (median age 49). It included a series of “good citizenship” questions about their willingness to vote, pay taxes, obey the law, play an active role in the community, and keep up to date with political developments.
The questionnaire also contained two personality assessments. One was a standard 60-item (HEXACO-60) poll, which included well-known Big Five personality traits (Extroversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Emotionality, Openness to Experience) and the Honesty-Humility trait (including sincerity, fairness, and humility).
The Traits of a Good Citizen Narcissist
The second personality test was a 27-item survey that measured the level of participants’ “dark triad”. These traits are narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism (which basically means manipulativeism). Researchers typically associate these with aggressiveness, impulsiveness, and callousness. However, recent research also shows positive things associated with Machiavellianism. These include persuasion, leadership, and crisis management.
The link between personality and political behavior is a relatively new area of research, but it has gained momentum over the past decade. The researchers note that their study is the first they are aware of to include dark triad traits in assessing people’s level of good citizenship.
Results : Narcissism May Mean More Connectedness
Among the HEXACO traits, the researchers found that the traits honesty – humility, emotionality, extraversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness all positively correlated with a good sense of citizenship related.
This should come as no surprise: people who score high in honesty and humility have a strong sense of fairness. They also show a greater commitment to the larger community. Those who score high on emotionality feel empathy and connectedness with others, and the social connectedness that results from an outgoing lifestyle predicts good citizenship. Likewise, pleasant people tend to be community-oriented and trusting. And conscientious people feel obligated to abide by rules and norms, such as voting and paying taxes.
Why would a narcissist care about voting?
But the study also found that people who embody the qualities of good citizenship perform better on the narcissism scale. This was not the case for the other two “dark” personality traits, psychopathy and Machiavellianism).
This is a surprising association as narcissism tends to be associated with selfishness and entitlement. In contrast, “good citizenship” generally means doing things that benefit others, even if it’s costly.
Researchers aren’t entirely sure why narcissism correlates with good citizenship behavior. They suspect it has something to do with a desire for praise and admiration from others, in this case fellow citizens. For example, research has shown that narcissists enjoy drinking wine, mainly because it puts them in a positive light. They also suggest that social media could play a role. For example, “voting selfies” and hashtags like #voted create new avenues for narcissistic people to get attention and praise.
“Regardless of the precise motivation,” the researchers write, “the results show that these darker personality traits, particularly narcissism, are not entirely problematic when it comes to political behavior or our normative expectations of good citizenship goes civic duty.”