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How do narcissists become charitable donors?

Study on the willingness to donate of people with narcissistic personality traits


The research duo Dr. Esther Kang (Chair of Consumer Psychology and Behavior at the WiSo Faculty of the University of Cologne) and Professor Dr. Arun Lakshmananan (Chair of Marketing, State University of New York at Buffalo) showed in a study that a narcissistic personality can be a charitable donor just when he or she puts himself in the situation of the needy. The study was published in the journal "Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin" under the title "Narcissism and Self- versus Recipient-Oriented Imagery in Charitable Giving". 

The participants of the study as potential donors had previously been classified with the "Narcissistic Personality Inventory" as a narcissistic personality trait. In the subsequent investigation, a fictitious appeal for donations was used, which showed the situation of a Syrian refugee child in Jordan. The authors compared data from two different methods of the fundraising campaign: the first method "Introducing the recipient" suggests imagining the living conditions of the needy, where the second method aims to put oneself in the situation of the needy and to see oneself in his place. 

The result was that donors with a pronounced narcissistic personality trait could better imagine being needy themselves and then donating higher amounts. According to the authors, narcissistic personalities with a strong egocentric perspective cannot do much with the first method of imagining the situation through the eyes of another person. Thus the feelings and needs of other people played a secondary role for narcissists. However, if the aim of the fundraising campaign is for the donor to put himself in the situation, the self-centered perspective is used to feel the neediness "on his own body".

"The right kind of self-referential images and texts could be an effective method for fundraising campaigns to reach narcissistic personalities as potential donors," recommends study leader Dr. Esther Kang.