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Thursday, June 9, 2022

Their own worst enemy? Collective narcissists are willing to conspire against their in-group

M. Biddlestone, A. Cichocka, 
M. Główczewski, & A. Cislak
The British Psychological Society
Accepted: 11 April 2022


Collective narcissism – a belief in in-group greatness that is not appreciated by others – is associated with using one's group for personal benefits. Across one pilot and four studies, we demonstrated that collective narcissism predicts readiness to conspire against in-group members (rmeta-analysis = .24). In Study 1, conducted in Poland (N = 361), collective narcissism measured in the context of national identity predicted readiness to engage in secret surveillance against one's own country's citizens. In Study 2 (N = 174; pre-registered), collective narcissism in UK workplace teams predicted intentions to engage in conspiracies against co-workers. In Study 3 (N = 471; pre-registered), US national narcissism predicted intentions to conspire against fellow citizens. Furthermore, conspiracy intentions accounted for the relationship between collective narcissism and beliefs in conspiracy theories about the in-group. Finally, in Study 4 (N = 1064; pre-registered), we corroborated the link between Polish national narcissism and conspiracy intentions against fellow citizens, further showing that these intentions were only directed towards group members that were perceived as moderately or strongly typical of the national in-group (but not when perceived in-group typicality was low). In-group identification was either negatively related (Studies 1 and 2) or unrelated (Studies 3 and 4) to conspiracy intentions (rmeta-analysis = .04). We discuss implications for research on conspiracy theories and populism.

Practitioner points
  • Analysts should monitor cases of public endorsement of collective narcissism, which is a belief that one’s in-group (e.g. nation, organisation, or political party) is exceptional but underappreciated by others.
  • As we show, collective narcissism is associated with a willingness to conspire against fellow in-group members and with support for in-group surveillance policies.
  • Thus, groups cherishing such a defensive form of in-group identity are threatened from the inside, thereby warranting education aimed at identifying and avoiding potential exploitation from otherwise trusted members within their own groups.

From the General Discussion

Importantly,  given  the  correlational  nature  of  our  studies,  causality  was  not  established.  It  is  then  also possible that in-group conspiracy beliefs affected conspiracy intentions. For example, intentions to engage in conspiracies within one's group might be a response to a conviction that malevolent forces operate within one's society. Such beliefs and intentions might in fact form a positive feedback loop, which fuels a culture of intragroup suspicion and paranoia, making conspiracy narratives about the in- group more believable and further frustrating personal needs (see also Douglas et al., 2017). This also implies that the conspiracies those high in collective narcissism appear willing to engage in are unlikely to satisfy the frustrated personal needs they purport to serve.