A study published in the Journal of Research in Personality illuminates the potential relationship between self-control and antagonistic narcissism, a trait with negative social consequences. Researchers found that narcissistic individuals with high levels of self-control were less likely to engage in antagonistic behaviors. These findings suggest that individuals with narcissistic personalities may be able to resist the impulse to engage in antagonistic behaviors if they practice and apply self-control.
Narcissism includes several sub-traits, including agentic narcissism and antagonist narcissism. Agentic narcissism refers to behaviors that are self-promoting and serve to increase the individual’s social power. These behaviors appear charming and confident at first. However, as relationships wear on, they become selfish and unfulfilling.
Antagonistic narcissism results when the individual feels threatened and lashes out to maintain a sense of importance. Antagonistic behaviors often include acts of revenge and aggression. Narcissistic personality traits have negative consequences for the individual, those in close relationships with them, and the communities they live in. Study author Ramzi Fatfouta and colleagues were curious if other personality traits may serve to reduce antagonistic behaviors.
Fatfouta and the research team conducted three separate studies incorporating 1,458 adult German and Polish participants. Participants were found via the internet. Each study used self-report survey methods to identify those who had antagonistic and agentic narcissism and their capacity for self-control. Measures include the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI), the Brief Self-Control Scale (BSCS), the Narcissistic Admiration and Rivalry Questionnaire (NARQ), and Aggression Questionnaire (AQ).
Each of the three studies found a negative relationship between antagonistic narcissism and self-control. In short, the more self-control an individual displays the less likely they are to engage in antagonistic behaviors. Self-control had little to no consequence for agentic narcissism. The researchers state, “we identified that the general ability to exert self-control by regulating one’s own impulses curbed antisocial tendencies in antagonistic (but not agentic) narcissists.”
This research provides clues to therapeutic measures that could be used to reduce antagonistic behaviors. The researchers acknowledge that self-control has been identified as a stable personality trait. This, they argue, should not rule out the possibility of self-control training as a tool to help those with antagonistic tendencies resist temptation. Aggression and acts of revenge are antisocial behaviors that necessitate innovative methods.
The research team acknowledges the limitations of the study. First, Agentic and antagonistic are not the only narcissistic personality traits, and individual differences in the unstudied traits may have consequences for the data. Second, self-control was measured through self-report. This may have resulted in biased results. Finally, the study measured self-control as a trait. Self-control can also be defined as a process, and this alternative definition may have produced different results.
Regardless of these limitations, the researchers feel strongly that their results are meaningful, and further research into the development of self-control in individuals with narcissistic personality traits is warranted.
The study, “Too tempting to resist? Self-control moderates the relationship between narcissism and antisocial tendencies“, was authored by Ramzi Fatfouta, Radoslaw Rogoza, Piotr Paweł, and Katrin Rentzsch.