Narcissism

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Indulgence in excessive self-love and selfishness where feelings of superiority, disregard for others, lack of empathy, illusions of grandiosity, and the use of people for one’s self gain are common characteristics of narcissism according to the DSM-III definition (Raskin & Terry, 1988).

A Closer Analysis of Narcissistic Personality Traits

In order to determine the potential personality traits of narcissistic individuals, several scales have been developed. Two such scales are the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NIP) and the Narcissistic Personality Disorder Scale (NPDS) (Wink, 1991). But the question remained to be why there was so little correlation between such scales. For this reason, Wink’s (1991) research set out to uncover the reasons behind the lack of strong correlations of 6 Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) scales including the NIP and NPDS. The research study would entail the examination of personality processes and individual differences of narcissistic individuals. Results demonstrated a commonality of traits organized by Wink (1991) into Grandiosity-Exhibitionism and Vulnerability-Sensitivity categories. Both categories differ such that Grandiosity-Exhibitionism is characterized with aggression, self-confidence, exhibitionism, and extraversion. On the other hand, Vulnerability-Sensitivity is associated with apprehension, susceptibility, defensiveness, and introversion (Wink, 1991). Thus, the results indicate that it is possible that there are two forms of narcissism. In addition, Wink’s (1991) research also points out the connection between overt narcissism with Grandiosity-Exhibitionism and covert narcissism with Vulnerability-Sensitivity. Other studies have examined how vulnerability caused by external uncontrollable factors such as love is associated with the self-sufficiency system narcissists use (Modell, 1975). Moreover, other studies identify other narcissistic personality traits as having intolerance to criticisms as well as exaggerated beliefs of self-beauty and power (Raskin & Terri, 1988). Other qualities such as impulsiveness, self-centeredness, and nonconformity are also narcissistic traits for those scoring high on the NIP (Raskin & Terri, 1988). Furthermore, more recent studies indicate that narcissists maintain low views of others, express mistrust, hostility, and Machiavellianism; these studies think of normal narcissism in terms of interpersonal traits such as high agency and low communion in regards to extraversion and agreeableness of the Big Five Theory (Sedikides, Rudich, Gregg, Kumashiro, [&} Rusbult, 2004).

The Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) and Other Scales

This is a self-report scale developed by Raskin and Hall (1979) to measure narcissism (Emmons, 1987). It is based on the definition of narcissism stated in the DSM-III. The NPI focuses on individual differences (Raskin & Terri, 1988). The NPI has made it possible to examine and specify operational definitions of narcissism such as autonomy, exhibitionism, self-sufficiency, entitlement, superiority, exploitation and vanity (Sedikides, Rudich, Gregg, Kumashiro, [&] Rusbult, 2004). Another scale is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) created by Ashby, Lee, and Duke (1979) to identify narcissistic personality disorder (Raskin & Terri, 1988). One difference of the MMPI from the NPI is that it is group-based. The MMPI is compromised by the Blashfield (1985), Morey, Waugh, and Wink and Gough (1990) scales (Wink, 1991). The following study has examined in detail the NPI.

Raskin and Terri 1988 Study “Component Structure of NPI”

Three studies were conducted in order to extend and modify the findings in Emmons 1984 and 1987 studies (Raskin & Terri, 1988). The first study involved 1,018 undergraduate students where correlations of 54 NPI items were analyzed and narrowed down to the seven factors for measuring narcissism (Raskin & Terri, 1988). These were Entitlement, Superiority, Self-Sufficiency, Vanity, Authority, Exploitativeness and Exhibitionism. The second study involved determining the construct validity of the measurement of narcissism in regards to self report. The purpose of the third study was to analyze construct validity in relation to the Leary circumplex of interpersonal behavior. Traits such as being Aggressive, Sadistic, Competitive, Managerial, and Autocratic were common self-descriptions of participants with high NPI scores in this study.

Normal Narcissism and Psychological Health Studies (Sedikides, Rudich, Gregg, Kumashiro, [&] Rusbult, 2004)

As an extension of Rose’s (2002) study on overt and covert narcissism but a few modifications, this research study challenged the hypothesis that narcissism contributes to unstable self-esteem, jealousy, fear of closeness, and other aspects of being psychologically unhealthy (Sedikides, Rudich, Gregg, Kumashiro, [&] Rusbult, 2004). Emmons’ (1984) and (1987) studies have given evidence that self-esteem and narcissism are positively correlated. The hypothesis stated that the mediator of narcissism and psychological health is self-esteem (Sedikides, Rudich, Gregg, Kumashiro, [&] Rusbult, 2004). These studies also analyzed if narcissistic self-esteem was composed more of self-competence or self-liking. They concluded that there was no significant difference between the two. Fives studies were conducted in which self-reports of depression and well-being were included (Sedikides, Rudich, Gregg, Kumashiro, and Rusbult, 2004). Psychological health, self-esteem, and narcissism were measure throughout the studies with undergraduate students as well as married couples. Response biases were also assessed. Results did support the hypothesis that self-esteem acted as a mediator as well as that narcissists can be psychologically healthy. But the study presented also the costs of narcissism in relationships. The self-serving bias is used to explain why narcissists engage in behavior that can have negative impacts on close relationships including romantic partners in order to achieve self-enhancement (Sedikides, Rudich, Gregg, Kumashiro, and Rusbult, 2004).

Additional Studies

John and Robins (1994) exemplified the self-perceptions of narcissistic individuals by conducting a study in which performance on a particular group task was rated through self-evaluations as well as the evaluations of judges and peers. The study wanted to determine the accuracy of self-perceptions when compared to evaluations of peers, the caused of the shifts of accuracy, and the role of narcissism with the self-perception bias. The study concluded that individuals labeled as high narcissist gave themselves higher positive self-evaluations in terms of their overall group contribution while the judges and peers gave them lower and more realistic evaluations. The self-enhancement bias could have been used as means to maintain high self-esteem within narcissistic individuals who felt that their self-image was threatened by low group performance, meaning that a link between narcissism and self-esteem is possible (John & Robins, 1994).

Critiques of Studies

Criticisms of the Normal Narcissism and Psychological Health Studies (2004) is that there is a probability that self-esteem is not the only factor contributing to psychological health (Sedikides, Rudich, Gregg, Kumashiro, [&] Rusbult, 2004). In addition, conclusions are based on the linear relationships between self-esteem, narcissism, and psychological health which can lead to over or underestimation of the contribution of each factor (Sedikides, Rudich, Gregg, Kumashiro, [&] Rusbult, 2004).

John and Robins (1994) did not focus specifically on narcissists individuals nor on the link between narcissism and self-esteem. Correlations between the two are hard to interpret because the variable of narcissistic self-enhancement could be present in the self-reports (John & Robins, 1994). Self-reports are not completely reliable.

Overall, studies agree that lack of empathy, conceit, and selfishness are common characteristics of narcissism. But deciding which narcissism scale to use has to be carefully considered because each scale could be measuring a different aspect of narcissism.

Works Cited

Baumeister, R. F. & Bushman, B. J. (2008). Social Psychology (pp.103, 313-4). United States: Thomson Wadsworth.

Emmons, R.A. (1987, January). Narcissism: Theory and measurement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52(1), 11-7. Retrieved November 23, 2008, from APA PsychNET database.

John, O.P. & Robins R.W. (1994, January). Accuracy and bias in self-perception: Individual differences in self-enhancement and the role of narcissism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66(1), 206-219. Retrieved November 23, 2008, from APA PsychNET database.

Raskin, R. & Terry, H. (1988, May). A principal-components analysis of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory and further evidence of its construct validity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(5), 890-902. Retrieved November 23, 2008, from APA PsychNET database.

Sedikides, C., Rudich E. A., Gregg A. P., Kumashiro M., & Rusbult, C. (2004,September). Are Normal Narcissists Psychologically Healthy?: Self-Esteem Matters. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87(3), 400-416. Retrieved November 23,2008, from APA PsychNET database.

Wink, P. (1991, October). Two faces of narcissism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61(4), 590-7. Retrieved November 23,2008, from APA PsychNET database.


According to ancient Greek mythology, a young man named Narcissus wandered the countryside in search of love. Thirsty from his travels, he stopped to drink from a pool of water where he became entranced by his own reflection. This self-love and self-preoccupation eventually caused Narcissus to die of thirst as he could not disturb the image of himself (Mythica, 2008). Deriving its name from the myth, narcissism is a psychological trait defined by excessive self-love and a selfish orientation (Campbell et al., 2002). Narcissism is further characterized by behaviors relating to self-aggrandizement, a lack of concern for relational intimacy, and aggression (Morf & Rhodewalt, 2001; Campbell et al., 2002; Baumeister et al., 2000). Narcissists present themselves in an air of grandiosity, self-importance, and superiority. Such inflated self-views, though, can only be maintained through the attention and admiration of others. This interaction serves to bolster self-esteem, but does not have a positive influence on interpersonal relationships as narcissists prefer to be admired rather than liked or accepted. When exploring the self-presentational strategies of narcissists, Morf (1994) found that self-aggrandizing statements were employed more often than statements demonstrating modesty or seeking social approval. Narcissists also react negatively to threats on their grandiose self-concept, regardless of detriment to their interpersonal relationships. Morf and Rhodewalt (1993) demonstrated this in a study where narcissists were outperformed on a task integral to their self-constructed superiority. To maintain dominance, narcissists derogated both the performance and personality of the competitor, showing more concern for the self than the other (Morf & Rhodewalt, 2003). On an intrapersonal level, narcissists promote self-aggrandizement through overestimation of their intelligence, attractiveness and positive personality traits (Gabriel et al., 1994; Paulhus, 1998). In maintaining the theme of exploitation and manipulation of interpersonal relationships, narcissists engage in romantic relationships for the benefits of self-worth rather than intimacy. They attract a partner through their charm and self-confidence, in turn receiving the attention and affirmation that satisfy their narcissistic needs. Moreover, narcissists seek to assert dominance in a relationship by regarding themselves as superior to their partner and employing the principle of least interest, giving the less invested partner more power (Campbell et al., 2002; Waller, 1938). Narcissists prevent relationships from becoming too close and are always on the lookout for another potential partner able to provide a boost in status or esteem. This strategy gives narcissists control over the relationship, along with freedom within the current relationship and the freedom to pursue a future one. Together, the pursuit of autonomy and lack of commitment constitute a game-playing approach to love, “where narcissists get what they want from a relationship while avoiding the things that they do not want” (Campbell et al., 2002) Narcissists spend much of their time and effort constructing a self-concept of personal superiority. The success of this grandiose self-view is greatly dependent upon the affirmation of others. When their high personal opinions are challenged or questioned, narcissists tend to respond aggressively toward the specific individuals providing the threat. Narcissistic aggression is neither indiscriminant nor absolute; narcissism merely elevates the likelihood of an aggressive reaction to provocation (Bushman & Baumeister, 1998). Such aggression is sometimes referred to as narcissistic rage as it is characterized by a sense of entitlement and a lack of empathy (both hallmarks of narcissism) and serves to restore self-esteem and internal power (Ronningstam, 2005). Created by Raskin and Hall (1979), the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) is a forced-choice questionnaire that evaluates individual differences in narcissism as a personality trait and is a commonly used self-report of narcissism (Raskin & Hall, 1979; Campbell et al., 2002). Several studies have demonstrated the validity of the NPI (Emmons, 1984). Emmons (1984) performed factor analysis to show the interrelatedness of four factors of the NPI: Exploitativeness/ Entitlement, Leadership/ Authority, Superiority/ Arrogance, and Self-absorption/ Self-Admiration. Emmons (1984) also correlated NPI scores with basic dimensions of personality and self-variables to show that NPI scores are positively related to dominance, exhibitionism, extraversion, and self-esteem. In another study, Emmons (1984) found that peer ratings of narcissism were closely related to NPI scores. Narcissism is typified by behaviors conveying self-importance, an inability to maintain romantic relationships, and hostility. Such behaviors serve to build an ostentatious self-concept and establish power within relationships. However, superiority and control come at a cost as they are gained through manipulation and polarization of others. The goals of most narcissistic actions serve to garner or bolster high self-esteem. Narcissism and high self-esteem, though, are not synonymous. Narcissists and individuals with high self-esteem both hold favorable self-views and may even see themselves as better-than-average regarding certain traits or skills. However, the distinction between the two rests in their differing interpersonal implications. Narcissism is a detriment to interpersonal relationships because narcissists feel a strong sense of superiority and entitlement. High self-esteem, on the other hand, is beneficial to interpersonal relationships as it confers confidence (not egotism) necessary for forming successful communal bonds (Campbell et al., 2002).


References

Baumeister, R. F., Bushman, B. J. & Campbell, W. K. (2000). Self-esteem, narcissism, and aggression: Does violence result from low self-esteem or from threatened egotism. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 9, 26-29. Bushman, B., & Baumeister, R. (1998). Threatened egotism, narcissism, self-esteem, and direct and displaced aggression: Does self-love or self-hate lead to violence? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 219-229. Campbell, W. K., Finkel, E. J. & Foster, C. A. (2002). Does self-love lead to love for others? A story of narcissistic game playing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 340-354. Campbell, W. K., Rudich, E., & Sedikides, C. (2002). Narcissism, self-esteem, and the positivity of self-views: Two portraits of self-love. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 358-368. Emmons, R. A. (1984). Factor analysis and construct validity of the narcissistic personality inventory. Journal of Personality Assessment, 48, 291-300. Gabriel, M. T., Critelli, J. W., & Ee, J. S. (1994). Narcissistic illusions in self-evaluations of intelligence and attractiveness. Journal of Personality, 62, 143-155. Morf, C. C., & Rhodewalt, F. (1993). Narcissism and self-evaluation maintenance: Exploration in object relations. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 19, 668-676. Morf, C. C. (1994).Interpersonal consequences of narcissists’ continual efforts to maintain and bolster self-esteem. Dissertation Abstracts International, 55 (6-B), 2430. Morf, C. C., & Rhodewalt, F. (2001). Unraveling the paradoxes of narcissism: A dynamic self-regulatory processing model. Psychological Inquiry, 12, 177-196. Narcissus. Encyclopedia Mythica. Retrieved November 25, 2008, from Encyclopedia Mythica Online. <http://www.pantheon.org/articles/n/narcissus.html> Paulhus, D. L. (1998). Interpersonal and intrapsychic adaptiveness of trait self-enhancement: A mixed blessing? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1197-1208. Raskin, R. N., & Hall, C. S. (1979). A narcissistic personality inventory. Psychological Reports, 45, 590. Ronningstam, E. F. (2005). Identifying and Understanding the Narcissistic Personality. New York: Oxford Press Waller, W. (1938). The family: A dynamic interpretation. New York: Dryden Press



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