Most people agree about which personality traits they find desirable in others. Kindness? Definitely. Agreeableness? Yes, please. Narcissism? Not so much.
Apparently, the only people who can actually tolerate narcissists are their fellow narcissists ― and the same goes for other personality disorder traits, according to new research. The study, published last month in the Journal of Personality, shows just how deeply our own personality influences how we perceive the personalities of others.
Previous research has found that narcissists are more likely to be friends with other narcissists who share their “dark” personality traits. The new findings might help to explain why people with personality disorders are more likely to not only become friends with but also to marry others with personality disorders, according to the study’s authors.
For the study, the researchers asked 218 college students to evaluate to what extent they had personality disorder traits including psychoticism (being hostile and aggressive), antagonism (hostility toward others) and low impulse control. A separate group of students was asked to evaluate the extent to which they possessed a range of normal and disorder-related personality traits.
Ten days later, the students came back into the lab and answered questions about how they felt when they encountered these traits in other people. The survey results showed that people were more favorable toward traits that they themselves possessed ― even if those traits were generally considered negative.
Interestingly, the effect was strongest in the case of antagonism. People who described themselves as antagonistic were much more likely to tolerate antagonism in others. However, that doesn’t mean that they like the trait ― they still rated antagonism as being less desirable than positive personality traits, but they were still more accepting of it than people with lower levels of antagonism.
“Antagonistic people don’t really like antagonism, and neurotic people don’t really like neuroticism, and introverted don’t really like introversion,” study author Joshua Miller, a psychologist at the University of Georgia, told LiveScience. “They’re just more tolerant of it. They don’t rate it as strongly negative as people who don’t have those traits.”
This seems to explain why narcissists flock together. And considering how miserable being in a relationship with a narcissist can be, that may not be such a bad thing.