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Mirror mirror on the ward, who’s the most narcissistic of them all? Pathologic personality traits in health care

Bucknall, Vittoria; Burwaiss, Suendoss; MacDonald, Deborah; Charles, Kathy; Clement, Rhys


Vittoria Bucknall

Suendoss Burwaiss

Deborah MacDonald

Kathy Charles

Rhys Clement


Background: Stereotypes in medicine have become exaggerated for the purpose of workplace amusement. Our objective was to assess the levels of “dark triad” personality traits expressed by individuals working in different health care specialties in comparison with the general population.

Methods: We conducted a prospective, cross-sectional study within multiple departments of a UK secondary care teaching hospital. A total of 248 health care professionals participated, and 159 members of the general population were recruited as a comparison group. We measured 3 personality traits — narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy — through the validated self-reported personality questionnaires Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI), MACH-IV and the Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale (LSRP), respectively.

Results: Health care professionals scored significantly lower on narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy (mean scores 12.0, 53.0 and 44.7, respectively) than the general population (p < 0.001). Nursing professionals exhibited a significantly higher level of secondary psychopathy than medical professionals (p = 0.04, mean LSRP score 20.3). Within the cohort of medical professionals, surgeons expressed significantly higher levels of narcissism (p = 0.03, mean NPI score 15.0).

Interpretation: Health care professionals expressed low levels of dark triad personality traits. The suggestion that health care professionals are avaricious and untrustworthy may be refuted, even for surgeons.


Bucknall, V., Burwaiss, S., MacDonald, D., Charles, K., & Clement, R. (2015). Mirror mirror on the ward, who’s the most narcissistic of them all? Pathologic personality traits in health care. Canadian Medical Association journal, 187(18), 1359-1363.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 20, 2015
Online Publication Date Dec 7, 2015
Publication Date Dec 8, 2015
Deposit Date Mar 1, 2016
Print ISSN 0008-4409
Electronic ISSN 1488-2329
Publisher Canadian Medical Association
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 187
Issue 18
Pages 1359-1363
Keywords Health care; nursing; personality traits; narcissism;
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