If you’ve seen examples of virtue signaling, chances are that person could be a narcissist, psychopath, or a manipulator, according to a new study.
In recent weeks, you’ve probably seen signs of virtue signaling. Often seen on social media, virtue signaling is when someone shares an opinion – usually social or politically – in order to gain praise and sympathy. Think of it as a follower on social media who posts something topical just because others are posting it, or that phony influencer who somehow out of nowhere becomes a social justice warrior overnight. It’s toxic and cheap and if you can read through the lines, you’re seeing examples of virtue signaling.
A study by researchers from the University of British Columbia sought to figure out the “consequences and predictors of emitting signals of victimhood and virtue.” The study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, ran through a series of tests on virtue signaling and was conducted by authors Ekin Ok, Yi Qian, Brendan Strejcek, and Karl Aquino.
Following the tests done in a series of studies, the authors said they showed how individuals with Dark Triad traits — Machiavellianism, Narcissism, and Psychopathy — were more frequently showing signs of virtue signaling.
“Our first three studies demonstrate how a perceived victim signal can lead others to transfer resources to a victim, but that the motivation to do so is amplified when the victim signal is paired with a virtue signal,” the authors wrote about their findings.
While virtue signaling does have benefits such as raising awareness toward certain causes or holding people accountable, the authors warned that it can be used as a “tactic for self-advancement and goal pursuit.”
Here are their findings:
“Our conclusion is simply that victim signals are effective tools of social influence and maximally effective when deployed with signals of virtue. We also provide evidence supporting our proposition that for some people these signals can be deployed as a duplicitous tactic to acquire personal benefits they would otherwise not receive. Given the ubiquity of victimhood claims circulating through public discourse by word-of-mouth, news reports, social media, legal cases, and the like, an explanation for the multiple motives that drive people to claim this status has both theoretical and practical relevance.”