Study: Narcissists less concerned with others’ narcissism

According to a new study, when evaluating others, narcissists are less likely to be bothered by narcissism in the people they’re evaluating.

Narcissism, or an inflated sense of vanity and self-importance, is often viewed negatively. Previous studies have shown mixed results, however, about how narcissists view others. This series of studies aimed to clear up some of the confusion using a variety of methods—including social media.

The research, published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, consisted of three separate studies designed to determine the relationship between evaluator narcissism and target narcissism.

Study 1

The first study looked at 75 undergraduate psychology students. The students first took the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) and then rated the likeability of 16 hypothetical people—8 narcissists and 8 non-narcissists. The narcissistic participants had less extreme opinions of others than the control group—they did see narcissists as “unfavorable” and non-narcissists as “favorable,” but significantly less so than the control group.

“One could reasonably have predicted that narcissists’ reactive tendencies would translate into more variability in their evaluations of different types of people,” said Harry M. Wallace, corresponding author, “but the opposite occurred.”

Study 2

The second study tested 82 undergraduate psychology students. The types of questions were similar to the first study, except this group only evaluated two hypothetical people—one narcissist and one non-narcissist. The made-up people were much more complex than in the first study, now having 20 traits each.

The results were similar—the narcissistic group viewed other narcissists as “unfavorable” and non-narcissists as “favorable,” but significantly less so than the control group did.

Study 3

The final study, involving 89 psychology students, tested whether the previous results would hold up in a more real-life setting: Facebook. The students took the NPI, and then evaluated others based on made-up Facebook profiles. Scientists found that both the narcissistic group and the control group viewed all the profiles negatively. Both the narcissistic profiles and the non-narcissistic profiles were seen as relatively unlikeable, but the narcissistic profiles were seen as more unlikeable.

The studies show that narcissists seem to agree with non-narcissists about whether other narcissists are likeable or not, but to a significantly smaller degree. The team believes the results are eye-opening and point to real-life circumstances and other future research possibilities.

“People often evaluate unfamiliar others on the basis of abstract and impersonal cues, and these evaluations may sometimes be consequential,” said Wallace.”