With personality traits, you are who you like


SOME personality traits are just likable. Agreeableness, for example, is marked by kindness and warmth — who could object? But although psychologists know a fair amount about how personality traits are generally perceived, they know a lot less about how a person’s own personality influences how they handle the personality traits of others. Now, a new study finds that people with dysfunctional traits such as narcissism and antagonism are more tolerant when they run into others who share those troublesome traits.
People’s tolerance of such traits might be one reason that personality disorders can be difficult to treat, said study researcher Joshua Miller, a psychologist at the University of Georgia.
“Psychopathic and narcissistic individuals, they understand they are more antagonistic” than other people, Miller told Live Science. “They just don’t think it’s problematic for them.”
A 2014 study in the journal Personality and Individual Differences had found that despite their preference for being in the spotlight, people with higher levels of narcissism —meaning they had an outsize sense of their own self-importance — are actually more accepting of narcissism in others than people low in narcissism are. Prompted by that study, Miller and then-doctoral student Joanna Lamkin decided to study a broader array of personality traits.
In their first study, the researchers recruited 218 college students and surveyed them to determine to what extent they had certain personality disorder traits, including narcissism, antagonism (a dislike of others and a willingness to use people for one’s own ends), psychoticism (hostility and aggressiveness) and disinhibition (lack of impulse control). In the second study, 198 students completed surveys on their own levels of general personality traits, not just maladaptive ones.
In both cases, the participants then waited 10 days before coming back for a second survey, to rate how they felt when they encountered those traits in other people. The waiting period was meant to limit people’s biases — if you just rated yourself high on a certain trait 5 minutes before, you’d be unlikely to declare yourself against that trait in the next survey, Miller said.
The consistent finding, Miller said, was that people were more positive toward traits they themselves had — whether those traits were personality disorder traits or more general personality traits.

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