5 Signs You Have A Contemptuous Personality, According To Science
Do you find yourself identifying with the sarcastic sidekick on every TV show? Are you exhausted at the end of each day from dealing with everyone else's complete and utter obtuseness? Do you secretly feel like you're the most special snowflake of them all? These are all signs of a contemptuous personality, so if you answered yes to all of the above, congratulations! You can count yourself among the likes of Chandler Bing from Friends, Dr. "Bones" McCoy from Star Trek, and all the other long-suffering, sarcastic jerks that exist in this wide world.
You're undoubtedly familiar with the type, but "contemptuous" personalities are actually a recent idea in psychology — so recent, in fact, that the first paper proposing their existence was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology just this month. As Science of Us points out, contemptuousness has previously been studied as an emotion or reaction rather than a personality trait, but according to research from the University of California, Davis, it's more stable than previously believed. To arrive at this conclusion, researchers built a scale measuring "dispositional contempt," or the tendency to look down on other people as a pattern rather than a situational reaction, and compared its stability to that of other personality traits, like dispositional envy or anger.
Over the course of six experiments, researchers discovered that dispositional contempt does indeed exist, and it can have all kinds of effects on your personal life. In one experiment, for instance, researchers found that contemptuousness tends to be contradictory: People who are contemptuous are disagreeable — in other words, they're don't play well with others — but they also feel like other people impose unfair standards on them. Other experiments indicated that people who are more contemptuous tend to be more racist and socially dominant as well.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, previous research has shown that even as an emotion, contempt has a significant ramifications in relationships. According to a 2013 study, it's one of the strongest predictors for divorce, and it's also associated with greater hostility toward people with whom you disagree.
By now, you're probably wondering how to tell if you have a contemptuous personality yourself. You can read more details about the UC Davis study at Science of Us, but let's take a look at five characteristics of a contemptuous personality below.
It's probably no surprise that the study found a link between narcissism and contemptuousness; if you chronically look down on other people, you logically have to assume that you're better than them. For the curious, here's how to tell if you're a narcissist.
2. Relationship Insecurities
Interestingly, the study also established a link between contemptuousness and "insecure attachment," the feeling that your relationships are barreling toward the end at top speed. Unfortunately, the study wasn't designed to draw conclusions about why contemptuous people act they way they do, so there's no data regarding why this connection exists.
3. Machiavellian Tendencies
Although it was related to all three of the "dark triad" of personality traits — narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism — contemptuousness had the strongest associations with the latter. Named after the famed part-time philosopher and full-time jerk Niccolo Machiavelli, Machiavellianism is the predisposition toward using manipulation, calculation, and deception to get what you want.
4. Expecting Perfection From Others
Researchers also found that contemptuousness was associated with "other-oriented perfectionism," or expecting total perfection from other people. As we're about to discuss, however, contemptuous people also feel the pressure toward perfection.
5. Low Self-Esteem
Contemptuous people may be cold and supercillious, but they're also more emotionally fragile than you'd think. According to the study, dispositional contempt was associated with self-deprecation and low self-esteem, and they often feel like other people impose impossible standards on them. So contemptuous people might be jerks, but it's possible they're hiding a gooey center underneath all that sarcasm and eye-rolling.