Communal Narcissists “Go Green” to Enhance their Social Status: An Abstract
Narcissism, formally defined as a persistent pattern of grandiosity, self-focus, and self-importance (American Psychiatric Association 1994), is on the rise, and individualistic, self-oriented motives and behaviors are norms, rather than exceptions. Simultaneously, the planet’s natural resources may be in greater danger than ever before. Is there a relationship between the two? Using the agency-communion model of narcissism (Gebauer et al. 2012), the present investigation aims to answer this question by systematically examining the role that communal narcissism plays in consumers’ pro-environmental decisions. According to this model, communal narcissism may be understood as an agency-communion characteristic; that is, communal narcissists’ agentic core motives (i.e., grandiosity, esteem, entitlement, and power) are expressed through communal means (e.g., helpfulness and trustworthiness).
Two studies suggest that while communal narcissists claim that they are pro-environmental, when it comes to making purchase decisions, their behaviors do not support such claims. Study 1 offers potential explanations for such discrepancies. Specifically, the findings of Study 1 indicate that communal narcissists may see pro-environmental actions as communal means that could potentially serve their agentic, self-directed motives (e.g., feeling special and influential). However, when pro-environmental actions are expected to harm their personal comfort (a direct threat to self-interests), the “me first” aspect of narcissism plays a more dominant role, resulting in lack of inclinations to engage in pro-environmental actions. Study 2 then provides evidence for a boundary condition: product public visibility. More precisely, communal narcissists are willing to purchase publically visible eco-friendly products because such products could deliver social utility and serve as a communal signal. However, this group is not interested in purchasing and using eco-friendly products that are usually used in private as such products are not expected to help them satisfy their agentic core motives.
This work finally provides some managerial recommendations to encourage pro-environmental consumption among this group of consumers. Overall green marketers should attempt to customize their promotional strategies by emphasizing social desirability and directing communal narcissists’ attention to this potential benefit of pro-environmental products. This is a critical endeavor given the urgency of increasing sustainable behavior and given unprecedented levels of narcissism and similar self-oriented characteristics in society.
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