Astrology is an ancient concept, as old as time, you could say. Derived from two Greek words: ‘astra’, which means a star, and ‘logos’, which means a logic or reason, astrology signifies the doctrine and law as depicted by the stars or planets. It is the study of the movement of planets and stars and how they influence us in our daily lives. And it goes without saying that, for many, such pseudoscience can greatly influence and even validate a person’s self-concept, as well as cement beliefs about their personal attributes. In short, the ruminative nature of astrology encourages self-reflection—enabling enthusiasts to understand themselves and their environment more clearly.
A quick scroll on Instagram will easily confirm that in today’s society, astrology remains very popular—be that because some people truly believe in it or simply because the memes and apps are just too good to resist. Either way, there’s nothing wrong with dabbling in the study of the movements of celestial bodies… Or is there?
A study conducted by researchers at Lund University, Sweden, and recently published in the peer-reviewed academic journal Personality and Individual Differences revealed that people who believe in astrology tend to score higher than others in narcissistic traits.
Prior to this research, previous studies had found that astrology enthusiasts are more likely to believe in conspiracy theories and a number of other pseudosciences, but narcissism had never appeared on the list. In order to collect data for this latest study, researchers asked 264 participants (mostly younger women) to complete surveys determining their belief in astrology. The survey, known as the ‘Big Five personality test’, consisted of a short version of the ‘Dark Triad test’—a personality inventory that explores the socially undesirable traits of narcissism, machiavellianism, and psychopathy—but was limited to assessing narcissistic traits only, on top of an overall intelligence evaluation. The researchers also threw in a single question asking participants how well they thought science supported astrology, just for the fun of it.
And, somewhat unsurprisingly, the surveys revealed that among personality factors, narcissism was by far the strongest predictor of how likely a test-taker was to believe in astrology. “Narcissism was also strongly associated with the idea that astrology is supported by science,” Big Think wrote when reporting on the matter. In simpler terms, this suggests that narcissists tend to be “fact resistant,” and therefore, more drawn to astrology than others. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger.
Interestingly, after looking at such findings, the study’s authors went on to suggest that the connection between narcissistic traits and astrology may have something to do with the tendency of horoscopes to be positively framed. When you often read about how great of a person you are, you tend to fall deeper into your narcissistic beliefs.
That being said, and before you pull out your in-depth birth chart reading from your back pocket, it should be noted that this study is not bulletproof. It should be taken with a grain of salt. Due to the high number of women who participated in their study, the authors also noted that their findings can’t be generalised to the entire population. “Additionally, the self-selection bias, social desirability bias, common method bias, and the reliance on self-reporting may introduce issues with the study that further lower its reliability,” Big Think further commented.
Despite these limitations, the study offers an interesting overview of the human self and how we each tend to see ourselves. Sure, as an Aquarius, I enjoy reading about how out-of-the-box my thinking process is, but I also believe that, in the end, we are nothing but tiny specks of dust in the universe. Am I a narcissist? Not sure, I’ll have to wait and see what tomorrow’s horoscope tells me.
But if you’re feeling self-conscious because of your burning passion for stars reading, don’t be—previous literature suggests that when societies or individuals are under stress or threat, people are more likely to turn to astrology and other epistemically unfounded beliefs. There, there, feel better now?