Narcissism, Big Five Personality Traits, and Performance in Temporary Teams: An Investigation of League of Legends

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Narcissism, Big Five Personality Traits, and Performance in Temporary Teams: An Investigation of League of Legends

As one of the largest gaming populations, both casually and competitively, League of Legends offers significant advantages for researchers investigating both physical and psychological components of performance. In this study, researchers wanted to explore behavioral trends associated with ranked in-game performance. Previous research has shown that positive, efficient communication is associated with higher in-game rankings, that higher-ranked players are more likely to use chat both to communicate strategy and to boost team morale, and that higher-ranked players may be more emotionally resilient or more likely to perceive difficult situations as challenges rather than threats.

In non-gaming settings, five-factor model personality tests have shown correlations with work and sport performance in team-based environment. When these same models have been used in esports research, the data have been mixed. For example, a previous study found that Openness, Agreeableness, and Extraversion traits were higher in players who had a higher win rate, but another study found that only Openness was positive correlated with higher ranking, while Agreeableness and Extraversion were actually negatively correlated. Further, no research has examined the so-called “dark personality traits”, such as narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism, which are linked to antisocial and counterproductive social communication and behaviors.

This study looks specifically at the association of narcissistic traits with performance, and the authors hypothesized that Narcissism would be a negative predictor of League of Legends performance.

Methods

The study employed a quantitative research design to investigate the relationship between personality traits and success in the online game League of Legends (LoL). Participants were recruited through both paid and unpaid means. The total sample included 444 participants, with 53 from unpaid recruitment and 391 from paid recruitment. The recruitment aimed to achieve a sample size of approximately 400 participants, with a focus on individuals playing at least 6 hours of video games per week.

The measures used in the study included the Narcissistic Personality Inventory-40 to assess narcissism and the Big Five Inventory 2 to measure extraversion, negative emotionality, open-mindedness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. These personality traits were evaluated using established scales, and the internal validity of the measurements was confirmed through various studies.

Player success in LoL was quantified by peak ranking, determined by the highest tier and division achieved in any year of play. The peak rankings were then converted into percentile scores based on player rank distributions on the North American LoL server. This approach allowed the comparison of player rankings from different seasons and systems, providing a more nuanced analysis than a simple binary categorization of low and high scores.

Results and Discussion

The authors conducted a number of analyses to establish that normal distributions existed for demographic factors, as well as to examine the relationship of the personality traits to each other in this population. There were statistically significant relationships between Narcissism and Extraversion, between Extraversion and Negative Emotionality, and between Conscientiousness and Negative Emotionality.

Negative emotionality is a personality trait characterized by the extent to which an individual experiences negative emotions, such as anxiety, depression, irritability, and stress. People high in negative emotionality tend to be more prone to experiencing and expressing negative emotions and may have a heightened sensitivity to perceived threats or stressors in their environment.

As seen in this table, Narcissism is the only personality trait that is positively associated with peak in-game rank. As statistical significance is defined by a p-value of .005, this did not rise to the level of statistical significance. This did, however, refute the authors’ hypothesis that narcissism would be negatively associated with in-game rank.

The authors hypothesize that contextual, not social factors may be more important to success. That is, poor or toxic communication and narcissistic personality traits may only worsen already-poor chances of winning, rather than being the factor that causes them in and of itself. The effects of positive team communication may only be impactful in close games.

Clinical Applications

Based on the results of the study, here are five potential clinical applications for esports medicine and performance science professionals.

  1. Player Mental Health and Well-being: Consider whether certain personality traits are dysfunctional–that is, have a negative impact on individual and team performance–and change would be beneficial, or whether those traits can be channeled in useful ways without having to make drastic changes. This may require working with players to develop strategies for emotional regulation, stress management, and resilience that take into account their unique personality traits.
  2. Team Communication and Dynamics: Recognize the ways in which those personality traits may lead to within-team synergy or conflict. Work with mental health and performance staff to foster positive communication strategies, mitigate toxic behaviors, and enhance collaboration.
  3. Performance Improvement Programs: Designing targeted performance enhancement programs that consider individual differences in personality traits can be beneficial. For instance, tailoring training regimens to accommodate players with higher narcissistic traits, emphasizing goal-setting, and providing feedback that aligns with their motivational needs may optimize performance outcomes for those players.
  4. Player Retention Strategies: Investigating the link between personality traits and player retention can aid in developing strategies to keep players engaged and committed. Understanding which traits may contribute to a player’s likelihood of quitting can inform targeted interventions aimed at improving player satisfaction and longevity in the esports community.
  5. Holistic Performance Assessments: Consider the broader context of players’ lives when assessing performance predictors and recognize that personality traits may have different implications in esports compared to traditional fields like organizational psychology. That being said, for sport psychologists in particular, collaborating with organizational psychologists may offer unique and novel insights.

Horne, G., Furnham, A., & Grover, S. (2023). Narcissism, big five personality traits, and performance in temporary teams: An Investigation of League of Legends. Journal of Electronic Gaming and Esports, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.1123/jege.2022-0022

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Dr. Jennifer Thai

Nutrition

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