Religion, narcissism and judgement

People who are highly religious can be affected by narcissism in much the same way as those who have no such orientation, new research has suggested. Published in the Journal of Business Ethics, the study revealed this type of egotism can be particularly harmful among those from whom a stronger ethical stance is expected.

Marjorie Cooper, Professor of Marketing in the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University - which is located in Waco, Texas - noted thinking only of oneself is powerful enough to encourage individuals to adopt behaviour that goes against their beliefs.

Professor Cooper observed: "Devout people who are narcissistic and exercise poor ethical judgment would be committing acts that are, according to their own internalised value system, blatantly hypocritical."

According to the findings, those who are sceptical about religion do not make worse ethical judgements when narcissism increases, yet the same is not true for nominal and devout Christians.

Dr Pat Frankish, Chartered Psychologist and a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, commented: "This study was based on students who were self-reporting, not people who are outwardly known to be devout Christians.

"I think we need to be sceptical about the results and not extrapolate to an assumption that all narcissistic devout Christians suffer from unethical decision making. It may be an interesting finding, in that narcissism is very powerful and can lead to errors of judgement when the self is potentially threatened."