'Pseudo-science' and 'self-centered worldview': Researchers find link between astrology and 'narcissism'

Astrology has enjoyed something of a revival in recent years. A Pew Research poll released in 2018 found that 29% of American adults — roughly one in four — believed in astrology. And a new study conducted by researchers at Lund University in Sweden offered some reasons for that revival, ranging from "narcissism" to "stress."

In an article published by Psych News Daily on November 20, writer Douglas Heingartner notes, "Scientists do not know 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."

Astrology had its followers in the United States long before the current revival.

The late First Lady Nancy Reagan was mocked by some of her critics for her belief in astrology and for seeking the advice of astrologer Joan Quigley, but astrology was hardly limited to the Ronald Reagan White House back in the day. Astrology was part of Baby Boomer pop culture during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s and was famously referenced in R&B hits like the 5th Dimension's "Aquarius" (1969), The Floaters' "Float On" (1977) and Leon Haywood's "I Want'a Do Something Freaky to You" (sampled by Los Angeles rappers Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg on their 1992 hit "Nuthin' But a G Thang"). There was plenty of talk about astrology in 1960s, 1970s and 1980s pop culture. And in the late 2010s and early 2020s, astrology — as Heingartner explains in his article — has been "becoming more and more popular."

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Stress would explain the popularity of astrology during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. The Boomer era had its stressors: the Vietnam War, Watergate, stagflation, the Cold War, two U.S. presidents surviving assassination attempts (Gerald Ford in 1975 and Ronald Reagan in 1981), a brutal recession in the early 1980s. And it would explain the popularity of astrology in 2021.

Heingartner says of the Lund study, "The authors suggest that current 'stressors' which might explain the increasing popularity of astrology include climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. And understanding why people believe in astrology matters. Although astrology in itself may seem harmless, it also correlates with belief in other pseudo-sciences 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."

Referencing the Lund researchers, Heingartner explains, "264 English-speaking participants…. were recruited via Facebook. Most of the participants, 87%, were women, and their age range was 25-34…. 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."

The researchers designed specific questions to measure how narcissistic a person is. And they asked participants to respond to statements like "I get bored hanging around with ordinary people" and "people see me as a natural leader."

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Heingartner says, "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.'"

Intelligence was measured as well by the Lund researchers. Heingartner notes, "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."