A new study has found that narcissism is the strongest predictor of people who believe in astrology, and that the IQ levels of believers tend to be lower.
The study — “Even the stars think that I am superior: Personality, intelligence and belief in astrology” — was published on November 20 in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.
It was conducted by a team of researchers at Lund University in Sweden.
Why do people who believe in astrology choose to believe?
So why do people believe in astrology and zodiac signs?
As the study points out, astrology is becoming more and more popular.
Scientists do not know for sure why astrology is undergoing what these researchers call a “revival.”
But they do point out that past research has found people are more likely to embrace astrology and other scientifically questionable beliefs when they are under stress.
Prior studies, for example, have found a link between personal turmoil and a belief in astrology.
The authors suggest that current “stressors” which might explain the increasing popularity of astrology include climate change and global health emergencies.
And understanding why people believe in astrology matters. Although astrology in itself may seem harmless, it also correlates with belief in other pseudosciences and conspiracy theories.
So the researchers wanted to find out whether individual personality traits might play a role in understanding why people who believe in astrology hold that belief.
“To the best of our knowledge,” they write, “no earlier studies have been conducted on narcissism and intelligence regarding belief in astrology.”
Known links between Big Five personality traits and belief in pseudoscience
Past research has found that that the Big Five traits of Openness, Extroversion, and Neuroticism are (weakly) positively correlated with belief in the paranormal.
Conscientiousness, on the other hand, is the personality trait least connected to pseudoscientific beliefs. Evidence is mixed on the trait of Agreeableness.
The researchers also wanted to investigate the links between astrology and narcissism, “due to the self-focused perspective” at the core of both.
Finally, the researchers wanted to measure the participants’ IQ levels, as intelligence has been found to correlate negatively with belief in pseudoscience and the paranormal.
Intelligence also correlates negatively with apophenia, which is the tendency to see connections or patterns between unrelated things.
Measuring belief in astrology and the Big Five
To find out more about the correlations between individual personalities and belief in astrology, the researchers assessed the personalities, IQ levels, and astrology beliefs of 264 English-speaking participants who were recruited via Facebook.
Most of the participants (87%) were women, and their age range was 25 – 34.
To measure the subjects’ belief in astrology, the researchers had them complete a shortened eight-item version of a psychometric assessment tool called the Belief in Astrology Inventory.
Participants were asked to rate the truth, on a scale of 1 to 5, of statements such as “Horoscopes predict a person’s future” or “The way I relate to other people depends on my zodiac sign.”
Subjects also completed several personality assessments. One was a standard 30-item personality test.
Another was a tool specifically designed to measure narcissism. It asked participants to respond to statements such as “People see me as a natural leader” or “I get bored hanging around with ordinary people.”
Finally, the participants completed a brief intelligence test.
The researchers also collected information on the subjects’ age and gender.
Results: narcissism was the strongest predictor of belief in astrology, and IQ was negatively linked to this belief
In terms of personality traits, narcissism was the strongest predictor of “Belief in Astrology” (β = 0.29).
The traits of Openness, Conscientiousness, and Neuroticism showed no correlations, while Agreeableness and Extraversion showed small positive correlations.
Intelligence had a small but significant negative effect: the higher the IQ, the lower the likelihood of believing in astrology.
The researchers also found that female participants and older participants showed slightly higher rates of believing in astrology.
What might explain these results? Both narcissism and astrology are all about “me”
As the researchers write, the link between astrology and narcissism “is possibly due to the self-centered worldview uniting them.”
They also suggest that the positive framing of astrological predictions and horoscopes might reinforce grandiose feelings, “and thus might appeal even more to narcissists.”
Interestingly, the study found that narcissistic traits also correlated with the belief that astrology is supported by science, which suggests the possibility that “narcissists may generally be more fact resistant.”
How many people believe in astrology?
According to a 2018 Pew Research poll, about 29% of American adults now believe in astrology.
Likewise, the poll found that women are more likely to believe in astrology (37%) than men are (20%).
Among Christians, the poll found, Catholics are somewhat more likely to believe in astrology (33%) than Protestants are (24%).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the poll also found that atheists are quite unlikely (3%) to believe in astrology and zodiac signs.
Conclusion and future directions
For future research, the team proposes looking at other possible factors that might explain these links, such as education levels and occupations.
“Our aim with the present study,” they write, “was to contribute to an increased understanding of individual differences and unfounded epistemic beliefs, such as belief in astrology.”
“The results showed, interestingly, that narcissism was the strongest predictor of belief in astrology.”
Study: “Even the stars think that I am superior: Personality, intelligence and belief in astrology”
Published in: Personality and Individual Differences
Authors: Ida Andersson, Julia Persson, and Petri Kajonius
Publication date: November 20, 2021