Why Narcissists Think They Know More Than Experts

How does narcissism impact handling of expert advice during coronavirus?

Posted Mar 21, 2020

I recently spoke to a friend who exhibits the vast majority of traits associated with being a narcissist, although they have never been diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

Some of the traits associated with narcissism include:

  • Feelings of superiority
  • High degree of concern for self-image
  • Inability to accept criticism
  • Lies and exaggeration
  • Violation of boundaries
  • Expectation of favourable treatment
  • Jealousy towards others
  • Thinking that people are jealous of them
  • Criticism of others
  • Manipulation of others

Those with narcissistic tendencies also tend to think they know best—even compared to the most educated people out there and in the face of contradictory scientific evidence. During the phone conversation with my friend (who I haven’t physically seen for two weeks), I told her that my son had a bad cough and that I was sure I had the virus because my throat had been very sore for a few days and I felt out of sorts. She counteracted this by telling me I "couldn’t have it because you’re not ill enough." I reminded her that the vast majority of people will present with fairly mild symptoms and that a sore throat and generally feeling unwell could be a sign of having the virus.

Her: "I think that’s rubbish. You need to be far more ill to have it."

Me: "No you don’t. I’m generally fit and healthy. I’m just worried about infecting other people in case I do have it." 

Her: "You don’t have it."

Me: "How would you know? Do you know more than scientists and doctors?"

Her: "Yes. I’ve seen properly ill people on TV with it. I don’t believe this nonsense about having it and barely having any symptoms. I don’t care what they say."

123rf
Source: 123rf

It’s very frustrating being on the receiving end of a phone call like that and I decided to terminate the conversation by changing the topic. I learned long ago there’s no point in trying to prove your point to a narcissist—no matter how much scientific evidence you have to back up your argument. 

On a wider cultural level, narcissists’ belief that they know better than experts can be highly dangerous, especially at a time like this when we need to follow advice which is backed by medical and scientific know-how. Coupled with a grandiose sense that they are the exception to the rule, narcissists may fail to listen to others and could potentially spread the virus by making up their own rules. What is frustrating on a one-to-one level takes on a whole new dynamic when the impact of narcissism is considered on a cultural level.