Skip to content

“Adaptive and Dark Personality in the COVID-19 Pandemic”: why people in America won’t wear masks– a continuation of yesterday’s post.

photo by Juraj Varga courtesy of

“Adaptive and Dark Personality in the COVID-19 Pandemic: Predicting Health Behavior Endorsement and the Appeal of Public-Health Messages” by Pavel S. Blagov in Social Psychological and Personality Science on July 7, 2020, is available here. From the abstract:

In a survey of 502 online participants, normal-range traits (esp agreeableness and conscientiousness) predicted endorsement of social distancing and hygiene, as well as the appeal of health messages in general. Consistent with the EPPM, conscientiousness and neuroticism had an interaction. Dark traits (esp psychopathy, meanness, and disinhibition) predicted low endorsement of health behaviors and the intent to knowingly expose others to risk. Most participants preferred a message appealing to compassion (“Help protect the vulnerable…”), but dark traits predicted lower appeal of that message. Personality appears relevant to epidemiology and public-health communication in a contagious-disease context.

In a nutshell, people who won’t wear masks generally have “dark traits”, especially psychopathy, mean-ness, and disinhibition. You knew that, but you just didn’t have words for it.

What other “dark traits” are there? Not being agreeable and conscientious, for one. Others are: “egocentricity, grandiosity, glibness, remorselessness, deceptiveness, manipulativeness, recklessness, unreliability, and antisociality” (from the text.)

Psychologists often use what they call the “Five Factor Model” which gives (surprise!) five different categories of personality: “Openness,  Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism” (from ScienceDirect, in their explanatory page generated by the question “What are the factors in the five-factor model?”) They also use a two-factor model that can generate a 2-dimensional graph of interpersonal traits; this includes only Dominance-Submission and Affiliation-Disaffiliation as variables (from the same page.)

The “Dark Triad” of traits are: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy (from Wikipedia.) These traits also could predict refusal to wear a mask.

So we can say that people who won’t wear masks are open, extraverted, unconscientious, disagreeable, and non-neurotic– or we can just say that they are dominant and disaffiliated.

Either way, Americans are more that way. Woe betide us.

(PS the opposite of “dark triad” is the “light triad”: “Kantianism, humanism and a faith in humanity.” –from ABC’s Australian bureau, available here.) Of course, you knew Australians are nicer people– mostly. We’ll get into that some other time, including “what is Kantian?”

No comments yet

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: