Participants with high levels of narcissism showed high levels of aggression, spreading gossip, bullying others, and more.
Narcissism is defined as “entitled self-importance." The term narcissism comes from the mythical Greek character Narcissus, who fell in love with his own image reflected in still water. Aggression is defined as any behavior intended to harm another person who does not want to be harmed, whereas violence is defined as aggression that involves extreme physical harm such as injury or death.
Our review found that individuals high in narcissism are especially aggressive when provoked, but are also aggressive when they aren't provoked. Study participants with high levels of narcissism showed high levels of physical aggression, verbal aggression, spreading gossip, bullying others and even displacing aggression against innocent bystanders. They attacked in both a hotheaded and coldblooded manner. Narcissism was related to aggression in males and females of all ages from both Western and Eastern countries.
People who think they are superior seem to have no qualms about attacking others whom they regard as inferior.
Why it matters
Research shows everyone has some level of narcissism, but some people have higher levels than others. The higher the level of narcissism, the higher the level of aggression.
Unfortunately, narcissism is on the rise, and social media might be a contributing factor. Recent research found people who posted large numbers of selfies on social media developed a 25% rise in narcissistic traits over a four-month period. A 2019 survey by the smartphone company Honor found that 85% of people are taking more pictures of themselves than ever before. In recent years, social media has largely evolved from keeping in touch with others to flaunting for attention.
What other research is being done
One very important line of work investigates how people become narcissistic in the first place. For example, one study found that when parents overvalue, overestimate and overpraise their child's qualities, their child tends to become more narcissistic over time. Such parents think their child is more special and entitled than other children. This study also found that if parents want their child to have healthy self-esteem instead of unhealthy narcissism, they should give unconditional warmth and love to their child.
Our review looked at the link between narcissism and aggression at the individual level. But the link also exists at the group level. Research has found that “collective narcissism" – or “my group is superior to your group" – is related to intergroup aggression, especially when one's in-group (“us") is threatened by an out-group (“them").
How we do our work
Our study, called a meta-analytic review, combined data from multiple studies investigating the same topic to develop a conclusion that is statistically stronger because of the increased number of participants. A meta-analytic review can reveal patterns that aren't obvious in any one study. It is like looking at the entire forest rather than at the individual trees.
The way you speak might reveal a lot about you, such as your willingness to engage in casual sex.
- A new study finds a deeper voice is associated with self-reported extraversion, dominance, and casual sex.
- It was the first study on the topic to objectively measure voice pitch.
- The authors suggest that hormones like testosterone might explain their findings.
We make snap decisions about other people based on information that we can gather quickly. One of the many ways that we do this is by making bold conclusions about other people's personalities based on their voices alone. Various studies demonstrate that people associate a deep voice with dominance, but those with higher pitched voices are perceived as nervous or neurotic. Popular culture seems to agree with and reinforce these stereotypes.
Are these perceptions accurate? Maybe. A new study by an international team of researchers with the goal of more accurately determining what our voices reveal about us has demonstrated that there is some connection between how we sound and who we think we are.
The voice-personality connection
Lead author Dr. Julia Stern of the University of Göttingen explained:
"Even if we just hear someone's voice without any visual clues — for instance on the phone — we know pretty soon whether we're talking to a man, a woman, a child, or an older person. We can pick up on whether the person sounds interested, friendly, sad, nervous, or whether they have an attractive voice. We also start to make assumptions about trust and dominance. The first step was to investigate whether voices are, indeed, related to people's personality."
The study included data from 2,000 people from four countries involved in eleven previous independent studies focused on other questions. Each of these studies involved some kind of self-reporting of personality traits and vocal recordings. The recordings were analyzed with Praat, software that determined the frequencies of the participants' speaking voices.
The study is the largest ever conducted on the topic and the first to use an objective measure of pitch rather than subjective rankings such as "high pitched" or "deep." Each participant's vocal pitch was then compared to the self-reported personality data they provided.
The findings associated self-reported levels of dominant tendencies, extroversion, and increased interest in and acceptance of sociosexuality (casual sex or sex outside of a relationship) with a lower pitched voice. This was true for men and women of any age. The findings were in line with the previous, less robust studies on the subject.
Other stereotypes, like if a higher pitched voice hints at neuroticism, openness to new experiences, or agreeableness, were impossible to determine with the data at hand.
Voice isn't everything
It should be remembered that the personality traits that this study associates with vocal pitch are self-reported, so there are some serious limitations. For instance, it is entirely possible that vocal pitch is associated with thinking you're extroverted when you actually aren't. Furthermore, all four countries in the study are WEIRD, so the findings probably cannot be universalized.
Additionally, there are plenty of examples of people for whom the voice-personality link doesn't apply. For example, Teddy Roosevelt, an extremely extroverted, dominating man, had a fairly high pitched voice.
The authors do speculate that there could be a connection between testosterone levels in men, their vocal pitch, and their perceived level of dominance that would be supported by previous studies. However, they have no hypothesis explaining why that same relationship exists for women.
The authors suggest that further studies in this area could focus on finding a possible physical connection between these traits and vocal pitch and to determine if they hold for traits which are not self-reported.
- Benjamin Franklin wrote essays on a whole range of subjects, but one of his finest was on how to be a nice, likable person.
- Franklin lists a whole series of common errors people make while in the company of others, like over-talking or storytelling.
- His simple recipe for being good company is to be genuinely interested in others and to accept them for who they are.
Think of the nicest person you know. The person who would fit into any group configuration, who no one can dislike, or who makes a room warmer and happier just by being there.
What makes them this way? Why are they so amiable, likeable, or good-natured? What is it, you think, that makes a person good company?
There are really only two things that make someone likable.
This is the kind of advice that comes from one of history's most famously good-natured thinkers: Benjamin Franklin. His essay "On Conversation" is full of practical, surprisingly modern tips about how to be a nice person.
Franklin begins by arguing that there are really only two things that make someone likable. First, they have to be genuinely interested in what others say. Second, they have to be willing "to overlook or excuse Foibles." In other words, being good company means listening to people and ignoring their faults. Being witty, well-read, intelligent, or incredibly handsome can all make a good impression, but they're nothing without these two simple rules.
The sort of person nobody likes
From here, Franklin goes on to give a list of the common errors people tend to make while in company. These are the things people do that makes us dislike them. We might even find, with a sinking feeling in our stomach, that we do some of these ourselves.
1) Talking too much and becoming a "chaos of noise and nonsense." These people invariably talk about themselves, but even if "they speak beautifully," it's still ultimately more a soliloquy than a real conversation. Franklin mentions how funny it can be to see these kinds of people come together. They "neither hear nor care what the other says; but both talk on at any rate, and never fail to part highly disgusted with each other."
2) Asking too many questions. Interrogators are those people who have an "impertinent Inquisitiveness… of ten thousand questions," and it can feel like you're caught between a psychoanalyst and a lawyer. In itself, this might not be a bad thing, but Franklin notes it's usually just from a sense of nosiness and gossip. The questions are only designed to "discover secrets…and expose the mistakes of others."
3) Storytelling. You know those people who always have a scripted story they tell at every single gathering? Utterly painful. They'll either be entirely oblivious to how little others care for their story, or they'll be aware and carry on regardless. Franklin notes, "Old Folks are most subject to this Error," which we might think is perhaps harsh, or comically honest, depending on our age.
4) Debating. Some people are always itching for a fight or debate. The "Wrangling and Disputing" types inevitably make everyone else feel like they need to watch what they say. If you give even the lightest or most modest opinion on something, "you throw them into Rage and Passion." For them, the conversation is a boxing fight, and words are punches to be thrown.
5) Misjudging. Ribbing or mocking someone should be a careful business. We must never mock "Misfortunes, Defects, or Deformities of any kind", and should always be 100% sure we won't upset anyone. If there's any doubt about how a "joke" will be taken, don't say it. Offense is easily taken and hard to forget.
On practical philosophy
Franklin's essay is a trove of great advice, and this article only touches on the major themes. It really is worth your time to read it in its entirety. As you do, it's hard not to smile along or to think, "Yes! I've been in that situation." Though the world has changed dramatically in the 300 years since Franklin's essay, much is exactly the same. Basic etiquette doesn't change.
If there's only one thing to take away from Franklin's essay, it comes at the end, where he revises his simple recipe for being nice:
"Be ever ready to hear what others say… and do not censure others, nor expose their Failings, but kindly excuse or hide them"
So, all it takes to be good company is to listen and accept someone for who they are.
Philosophy doesn't always have to be about huge questions of truth, beauty, morality, art, or meaning. Sometimes it can teach us simply how to not be a jerk.
New research identifies 16 different COVID-19 personality types and the lessons we can learn from this global pandemic.
- New research by Mimi E. Lam at the University of Bergen explores the different "personality types" that have emerged in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- According to Lam, recognizing various COVID-19 identities can refine forecasts of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and impact.
- Global Solutions Initiative, Population Matters, and AME explore how the world (and society) has changed due to COVID-19.
Are you a complier or non-complier personality type?
New research by Mimi E. Lam at the University of Bergen (Human and Social Sciences Communications) explores the different "personality types" that have emerged in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lam explains to Eurekalert: "...the COVID-19 pandemic reminds us that we are not immune to each other. To unite in our fight against the pandemic, it is important to recognize the basic dignity of all and value the human diversity currently dividing us."
According to Lam, "Only then, can we foster societal resilience and an ethical COVID-19 agenda. This would pave the way for other global commons challenges whose impacts are less immediate, but no less dire for humanity."
There are 16 different COVID-19 personality types, and they include the following:
- Deniers — Individuals who downplay the viral threat and promote a kind of "business as usual" lifestyle.
- Spreaders — Individuals who believe spreading the virus could actually be positive. These are individuals who believe in "herd immunity" and that passing the virus around will eventually allow things to return to normal.
- Harmers — Individuals who intentionally attempt to harm others by spreading the virus (via coughing or spitting, not wearing masks, licking various public surfaces, etc.).
- Realists — Individuals who recognize the reality (and potential harm) of spreading the virus and attempt to adjust their behaviors to not spread the virus.
- Worriers — Individuals who stay informed and safe to manage their uncertainty and fear. These are also individuals who will have a lot of anxiety over the current state of the virus at all times.
- Contemplators — Individuals who have taken "quarantine times" to isolate and reflect on their own lives. These are individuals who may attempt to better themselves (focusing on new hobbies or skills) during times of isolation.
- Hoarders — Individuals who panic-buy and hoard products (such as toilet paper) in an attempt to quell their panic and worry over the spreading of the virus.
- Invincibles — Individuals who believe themselves to be immune to the virus. These are also individuals who claim a kind of "if I get sick, I get sick" kind of attitude, not taking time to reflect on the idea that they could be carriers of the virus, spreading it to others.
- Rebels — Individuals who defiantly ignore social distancing measures and various other rules put into place to protect the general public.
- Blamers — Those who fault others for their fears and frustrations.
- Exploiters — Those who attempt to exploit the current situation (taking advantage of vulnerable people/situations) for power, profit, or brutality.
- Innovators — Individuals who attempt to design or repurposes resources in an attempt to fight the pandemic and contribute to society.
- Supporters — Individuals who show support and solidarity to others around them in regards to fending off the virus or supporting loved ones.
- Altruists — Individuals who help the vulnerable, elderly, and isolated.
- Warriors — Individuals (such as front-line support workers and health care workers) who combat COVID-19 on the front lines, facing the harsh and grim realities of a global pandemic on a larger scale.
- Veterans — Individuals who have experienced a previous pandemic (such as SARS or MERS) and willingly comply with restrictions.
According to Lam and her research, recognizing various COVID-19 identities can refine forecasts of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and impact. These viral identities can reflect values, social identities, situational contexts, and risk tolerances. Lam suggests that to forecast viral transmission within populations (accounting for different responses), these identified viral behaviors can be clustered by their "compliance" efforts.
- Non-compilers are individuals who fall into the following categories: Deniers, Harmers, Invincibles, and Rebels.
- Partial compliers would be individuals who fall into the categories of: Spreaders, Blamers, and Exploiters.
- Compliers would be individuals who are in the categories of Realists, Worriers, Contemplators, Hoarders, Innovators, Supporters, Altruists, Warriors, and Veterans.
Lam suggests that liberal democracies need an ethical policy agenda with three priorities:
- Recognize the diversity of individuals
- Deliberate and negotiate value trade-offs
- Promote public buy-in, trust, and compliance
By projecting different impacts in COVID-19 transmission and deaths and then correlating those with variable behavioral responses such as the ones listed above, we can reveal the benefits of not only flattening the viral curve but shifting our behavioral curve in a joint human effort to induce more adaptive responses to the pandemic. More research needs to be conducted in this area.
What has COVID-19 taught us as a society?
Image by Corona Borealis on Adobe Stock
The Global Solutions Initiative outlines a few questions and concerns that humankind has been faced with since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020:
- We have been confronted with the true uncertainty and vulnerability of human life and our very existence.
- We have been made to face existential questions - what are we here for, what do we want to accomplish? Who are the people that matter most to us?
Population Matters outlines a few more daunting questions about humankind's relationship with nature:
- What is the link between population growth, environmental destruction, and pandemics?
- How has our society's exponential rise in consumption, trade, and population pressure driven a rapid increase in the risk of pandemics?
AME outlines some essential things this pandemic has taught us about humanity and life:
- The meat industry has played a large hand in transmitting this virus. According to a recent study, SARS-CoV-2 originated in bats and has likely been transmitted to human through a scaled mammal called a pangolin (which are highly traded in China despite being deemed illegal).
- Nature can recover from our destructive efforts. Since the pandemic, the world has seen coyotes on the streets, wild boar roaming around in Barcelona, more bees, and rare wildflowers in the UK.
- Many in-office employees can work from home. This pandemic has altered the way many businesses run and will continue to run in the future. This could cause less pollution and have positive impacts on the environment.
The research conducted by Lam and subsequent research on how COVID-19 is impacting society can help us grow and adapt and perhaps become better equipped to deal with global pandemics in the future.
Answering the question of who you are is not an easy task. Let's unpack what culture, philosophy, and neuroscience have to say.
- Who am I? It's a question that humans have grappled with since the dawn of time, and most of us are no closer to an answer.
- Trying to pin down what makes you you depends on which school of thought you prescribe to. Some argue that the self is an illusion, while others believe that finding one's "true self" is about sincerity and authenticity.
- In this video, author Gish Jen, Harvard professor Michael Puett, psychotherapist Mark Epstein, and neuroscientist Sam Harris discuss three layers of the self, looking through the lens of culture, philosophy, and neuroscience.