Narcissism is more harmful to very devout people, according to a new study from Baylor University.
“Devout people who are narcissistic and exercise poor ethical judgment would be committing acts that are, according to their own internalized value system, blatantly hypocritical,” said Marjorie J. Cooper, Ph.D., professor of marketing at Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business and lead author of the study.
“Narcissism is sufficiently intrusive and powerful that it entices people into behaving in ways inimical to their most deeply-held beliefs.”
For the study, 385 undergraduate marketing students completed an online survey in which they indicated to what degree they believe behavior was acceptable for such statements as: “An underpaid executive padded his expense account by about $3,000 a year” or “a company paid a $350,000 ‘consulting’ fee to an official of a foreign country. In return, the official promised assistance in obtaining a contract that will produce $10 million profit for the contracting company.”
The students also were asked how strongly they agreed with such statements as: I go to church mostly to spend time with my friends; my whole approach to life is based on my religion; and although I believe in my religion, many other things are more important in life.
The researchers then identified three groups: skeptics, nominal Christians and devout Christians.
“We found that nominal and devout Christians show better ethical judgment than the skeptics overall, but especially those whose narcissistic tendencies are at the low end of the spectrum,” said Chris Pullig, Ph.D., chair of the department of marketing and associate professor of marketing at Baylor. “However, that undergoes a notable alteration as levels of narcissism rise for subjects within each cluster.”
“Both the nominal and devout groups show degrees of poor ethical judgment equal to that of the skeptics when accompanied by higher degrees of narcissism, a finding that suggests a dramatic transformation for both nominals and the devouts when ethical judgment is clouded by narcissistic tendencies,” he said.
Increased narcissism among skeptics does not result in significantly worse ethical judgment, the researchers said.
“However, the same cannot be said for the nominals or the devouts,” Cooper said. “For both of these groups, as narcissism increases, so does the tendency to demonstrate worse ethical judgment. A higher level of narcissism is more likely to be associated with unethical judgment among nominal Christians and devout Christians than skeptics.”
The study was published online in the Journal of Business Ethics.
Source: Baylor University