Now this is interesting – especially in today’s culture: A new study has found that some people, who see themselves as special or entitled in some way that others are not, disregard ordinary instructions or the usual “order” of things that most others do follow. And the research found that the underlying reason reflects their narcissistic outlook about how the world should work for them.
In essence, this study from Cornell and the Harvard Medical School found that found people with a greater sense of entitlement are less likely to follow instructions than less entitled people are, because they view the instructions as an “unfair” imposition on them.
If that sounds familiar regarding recent political events and the underlying sense of entitlement driving them, that’s not surprising. It might remind you of Senator McCain’s speech in the Senate imploring his colleagues to follow “usual order.” But they did not. And neither did he, ultimately. They all joined to act upon their own definition of “fairness.”
To study this, researchers Emily Zitek and Alexander Jordan pointed out in this summary that previous studies found that entitled people – technically, individuals with a higher sense of entitlement – are more likely to believe they deserve preferences and resources that others don’t. And, that they are less concerned about what is socially acceptable or beneficial.
The aim of new study was to explore the underlying reasons for that. Zitek and Jordan first identified those who were more likely to avoid following instructions in a word search. After establishing that people who scored high on measures of “entitled personality” were less likely to follow instructions, they provided a set of scenarios to try to understand why the entitled individuals ignore the instructions: selfishness, control, or punishment. But none of those affected the outcomes: Entitled people still wouldn’t follow instructions.
It surprised the researchers that it was so hard to get entitled individuals to follow instructions. To me, that’s no surprise: We know — whether from psychotherapy or general psychological observation – that people who demonstrate the kind of narcissistic personality that fuels a sense of entitlement in their conduct often behave that way.
But the researchers were surprised: “We thought that everyone would follow instructions when we told people that they would definitely get punished for not doing so, but entitled individuals still were less likely to follow instructions than less entitled individuals,” said Zitek.
When the study looked at the issue of perceived “fairness,” they got more to the source, at least as revealed by the experiment: The entitled people did not follow instructions because they would rather take a loss themselves than agree to something unfair,” wrote the authors.
Zitek suggests that “a challenge for (anyone) who needs to get people with a sense of entitlement to follow instructions is to think about how to frame the instructions to make them seem fairer or more legitimate.”
But good luck with that! Unless,. that is, you define “fairness” as acquiescing to whatever the entitled individual defines as “fair” to himself or herself.
The study was published in Social Psychology and Personality Science.