Left-wing extremism and aggression are linked to psychopathic and narcissistic tendencies, a new study has found.
People with narcissistic or psychopathic tendencies are more likely to strongly endorse left-wing aggression against authority, according to a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Current Psychology.
The study found that people with dark personality traits like narcissism and psychopathy tend to be drawn more to certain aggressive left-wing political and social activities. Their desire to engage in these activities is not always rooted in a genuine desire for social justice, though, but rather is a way to satisfy their ego, the study suggests.
The study introduced a new term for this behavior called the “dark-ego-vehicle principle.”
“According to this principle, individuals with dark personalities – such as high narcissistic and psychopathic traits – are attracted to certain forms of political and social activism which they can use as a vehicle to satisfy their own ego-focused needs instead of actually aiming at social justice and equality,” study authors Dr. Ann Krispenz and Dr. Alexander Bertrams told PsyPost.
Bertrams is the head of the Educational Psychology Lab at the University of Bern in Switzerland, and Krispenz is a postdoctoral associate at the same university.
The study was actually made up of two studies, both of which found that “individuals who strongly endorse anti-hierarchical aggression to overthrow those in power are narcissistic individuals with psychopathic attributes and thus driven by ego-focused motives.”
“In particular, certain forms of activism might provide them with opportunities for positive self-presentation and displays of moral superiority, to gain social status, to dominate others, and to engage in social conflicts and aggression to satisfy their need for thrill seeking,” the authors told PsyPost.
The study authors warned that, “minority groups should be made aware of the narcissistic ‘enemies’ from within their activist movement, as these individuals could hijack the cause thereby reducing the success of the activism in many ways.”
Narcissists pretend to be prosocial, they said, but actually tend to have “low empathy,” the authors said.
The authors said they wanted to investigate the personality traits linked with left-wing authoritarianism because the concept has been met with skepticism by many researchers and there is not a lot of research on the subject.
“We were interested in the psychological factors behind authoritarianism,” they said. “There is a wide range of literature and research in the field of right-wing authoritarianism (RWA). However, research on authoritarianism observed in individuals who are supportive of left-wing political ideologies are still rare,” they said.
They used another researcher’s new measure for left-wing authoritarianism.
That new measure defined left-wing authoritarianism as a combination of three things, anti-hierarchical aggression or wanting to use force to overthrow established hierarchies, anti-conventionalism or embracing progressive moral values, and top-down censorship or wanting to use the government to suppress speech.
Violent left-wing activism has cropped up frequently in the U.S. in recent years, most notably during the summer of 2020, when activists destroyed the downtown areas of major cities during protests around the death of George Floyd.