People high in narcissistic traits—which include feelings of superiority, entitlement, and need for attention—have been dealing with a lot more negative emotions during the pandemic, according to the study’s findings. Additionally, the more narcissistic someone was, the more instability they felt as a result of COVID, and the more likely they were to agree with statements like “I have lost control of my life.”
People high in Machiavellianism—marked by a willingness to manipulate people for one’s own benefit—experienced many of these same emotional struggles, the study found.
“Machiavellians attain their goals by manipulating a predictable social system. Similarly, narcissists maintain their grandiose self-concept by seeking affirmation from others in social settings,” the researchers write in the paper on their findings. “Therefore, individuals who are higher in Machiavellianism and narcissism may perceive the pandemic as a threat to the social stability that they rely on to exploit others and support their sense of superiority.”
But this wasn’t the case for people with psychopathic or sadistic tendencies. People with psychopathic tendencies simply had fewer positive emotions, whereas sadists actually had more positive emotions.
Psychopathy and sadism are both characterized by their antisocial behavior, the researchers note, so it’s possible these folks cared less about social instability than people like narcissists who actually thrive on contact with others.
“Social instability may be threatening to narcissists because they rely on social feedback to support their grandiose self-concept,” the researchers explain.