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Who hangs out with a narcissist? Study suggests it’s other narcissists

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Narcissists may be less repelled by other narcissists, a recent study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests.

Given how challenging a friendship with a narcissist may be (in this case, grandiose narcissists, not those described as vulnerable narcissists), researchers were interested in examining: who hangs out with a narcissist?  Lead study author Ulrike MaaB and colleagues sought to answer whether friends of narcissists shared similar narcissistic traits.

Key features of narcissism include a sense of entitlement, arrogance, inflated self-importance, and lack of empathy; interpersonal relationships are hugely impacted by such narcissistic needs.

While on the surface it may appear that narcissists are self-confident and poised, in reality, a narcissist experiences a truckload of negative self-concept, resulting in an unreasonable need for self-acceptance. To achieve this self-acceptance, a narcissist will manipulate and engage in excessive self-promotion, usually by alienating others.

To measure personality traits, the Big Five (extraversion, agreeableness, openness,conscientiousness and neuroticism) was used, while several assessments were used to measure narcissism and associated traits.

Three menacing traits, narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathology, comprise the “Dark Triad” of personality; each of these constructs were measured by the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, the Machiavellianism Scale, and the Self-Report Psychopathy Scale–III, respectively.

A total of 290 pairs of friends participated in the study, and each participant responded to the Big Five and Dark Triad assessments. Big Five results (general score and domain scores) indicated that friends had comparable degrees of narcissism, demonstrating that similarities in narcissism follow similarities in the Big Five profile, implying that “narcissists of a feather flock together.”

Additional findings found a connection with Machiavellianism and psychopathology and Big Five results (on general scores and neuroticism, agreeableness, and conscientiousness domain scores; no connection to the domains of openness to experience and experience was shown).

What conclusions can be drawn? Essentially, narcissistic traits in others are comfortable for a narcissist, with a tolerance for traits based on shared similarities. These similarities also play a role in the self-regulatory needs of narcissists, or how narcissists are motivated to mask an underlying poor self-concept. While those without narcissistic traits, such as self-promotion or devaluing others, find little appeal in these traits, “two narcissist best friends will probably not threaten each other’s ego.”