A recent peer-reviewed study published in the journal Current Psychology has brought forth an interesting concept that may explain the motivation behind politically left-leaning individuals participating in politically aggressive actions.
The researchers, in their efforts, seem to have identified a phenomenon they refer to as the “dark-ego-vehicle principle,” that could explain why certain individuals, particularly those with narcissistic and psychopathic traits, are drawn to ideologies and forms of political activism, including those falling under the banner of left-wing authoritarianism (LWA).
The research was guided by the researchers’ anticipation of “the relationship between narcissism and the LWA subfacet of antihierarchical aggression.”
In essence, they explored whether those high in narcissism were more likely to express antihierarchical (opposition to some system or order) aggression, a facet characterized by endorsing the use of violence to achieve personal political goals.
Initially, the data suggested that antihierarchical aggression was only predicted by social justice commitment and not narcissism.
But once factors such as age, gender, and virtue signaling, alongside other dark triad traits—Machiavellianism and psychopathy—were taken into account, “the association between antihierarchical aggression and social justice commitment vanished and a relationship between antihierarchical aggression and psychopathy was unveiled.”
The researchers emphasized that “Individuals with dark triad traits share several attributes – they are self-promoting, emotionally callous, and have a tendency to manipulate others to take advantage of them.”
This led to the conclusion that antihierarchical aggression was significantly predicted by psychopathy, one of the traits in the dark triad, which also includes narcissism and Machiavellianism.
These findings build upon existing research that identified psychopathy as a strong predictor for extremist violence and found correlations between LWA and psychopathy.
The results seem to counter the preconceived notion that narcissism would be predictive for antihierarchical aggression.
A first study the researchers analyzed used the Five-Factor Narcissism Inventory (FFNI) to measure narcissism, finding that antihierarchical aggression was significantly predicted only by so-called antagonistic narcissism.
According to the researchers, “Antagonistic narcissists are individuals exploiting others for their own interests, lacking empathy, and having a sense of entitlement. Also, they are arrogant and manipulative, demonstrating reactive anger and distrust in others while seeking conflict and thrill.”
A second study, however, showed psychopathy was found to be the major predictor of antihierarchical aggression, indicating that the individuals who strongly endorse using aggression to overthrow those in power have narcissistic attributes with a psychopathic streak.
The researchers propose a “dark-ego-vehicle principle,” suggesting that “individuals with dark personalities – such as high narcissistic and psychopathic traits – are attracted to certain ideologies and forms of political activism,” using these as a means to satisfy their ego-focused needs.
This research is a step forward in understanding the psychological mechanisms underlying especially left-wing political activism.
It emphasizes the need for careful interpretation of motivations behind political activism, which may not solely be rooted in political orientation but significantly influenced by underlying personality traits.
It’s worth noting the most murderous world leaders in history carried left-leaning political ideologies.
Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Nicolae Ceaușescu, Benito Mussolini, and Joseph Stalin were communists and Adolph Hitler was a socialist.
Read the full study below: