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Tuesday, July 19, 2022

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

M. Biddleston, A. Cichocka, et al.
The British Journal of Psychology
First published: 06 May 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

Collective narcissism compensates for frustrated needs (Cichocka et al., 2018; Golec de Zavala et al., 2019). Thus, for those scoring high in collective narcissism, it is the group that serves the individual, rather than the individual who serves the group (Cichocka, 2016). As those scoring high in collective narcissism are more firmly invested in the in-group, they should be more likely to try to satisfy their needs via taking advantage of the group. This implies that those high in collective narcissism might be ready to sacrifice in-group members and collude against them, if this helps them further their agendas (see Douglas & Sutton, 2011). These conspiratorial efforts seem directed towards in-group members perceived as typical of the in-group. Our findings add to the growing literature showing that collective narcissism does not only predict hostile outgroup attitudes, but that it is also linked to problematic relations within the in-group (Cichocka et al., 2021; Cichocka & Cislak, 2020; Gronfeldt et al., 2022; Marchlewska et al., 2020).