New research indicates that agentic narcissists perceive themselves as adept liars. However, they don’t claim to lie to their romantic partners any more frequently than the average individual. Interestingly, no connection was found between communal narcissism and a propensity for deception. The study was published in Frontiers in Psychology.
While most people occasionally lie, including to their partners, this behavior often results in reduced relationship satisfaction. Such deception typically arises as a means to prevent conflicts between couples. Prior research has indicated that those with minimal commitment to their partners or those exhibiting avoidant and anxious attachment styles are more likely to be deceitful.
Another trait that is often linked to lying is narcissism. Narcissism is a personality trait characterized by excessive self-centeredness, a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. Researchers distinguish between different types of narcissism, one of which is grandiose narcissism. It has two subtypes or facets – agentic narcissism and communal narcissism.
Agentic narcissism is a personality trait characterized by self-centered focus on one’s personal achievements, success, and dominance in social interactions, often at the expense of others. Communal narcissism, on the other hand, is a personality trait where individuals exhibit an exaggerated sense of their own generosity, selflessness, and moral superiority, seeking admiration and recognition for their supposed altruistic behavior.
Study author Nico Harhoff and his colleagues wanted to investigate whether there indeed is a link between proneness to lie and these two types of narcissism. They note that behaviors of highly narcissistic persons of these types is driven by a desire to create a certain impression in others and lying might be one of the tools they use for that purpose.
The expectation of study authors was that more narcissistic individuals will be more prone to lying to their romantic partners. They expected that this would be more the case with persons high in agentic narcissism and with men. These researchers conducted two studies.
The first study involved 298 participants sourced from the researchers’ private networks, while the second comprised 256 individuals. A majority of participants in both studies were female, with the average age being 30 in the first study and 27 in the second. Over half were students, and all were in a relationship during the study.
Participants underwent evaluations for communal narcissism (via the Communal Narcissism Inventory), agentic narcissism (using the Narcissistic Personality Inventory), and their lying frequency (based on an adapted, yet unpublished, scale). This lying assessment probed three lie types: self-centered lies, other-focused lies, and altruistic lies meant to shield a partner from embarrassment.
Contrary to the researchers’ predictions, only one type of lie displayed a minor association with agentic narcissism in the second study, while the first study showed no such connection. Moreover, those with high levels of agentic narcissism considered themselves marginally better liars than their less narcissistic counterparts.
In the first study, a faint correlation emerged between a specific type of self-centered lie and agentic narcissism. In the second study, men claimed to lie more often than women. Both studies found no significant relationship between narcissism and lying tendencies.
“Summarized-as a take home message of this research-we again showed that people higher in agentic narcissism believe to be good liars, but this does not lead to higher self-reported frequencies of other-oriented and self-centered lies within participants actual romantic relationships,” the study authors concluded.
The study makes a valuable contribution to the scientific understanding of the links between lying and narcissism. However, the study was solely based on self-reports about both narcissism and lying and it is not unreasonable to assume that people more prone to lying would also be more likely to not answer sincerely about lying in a self-report. A study using more objective measures of lying and narcissism might not yield equal results.
The study, “Agentic and communal narcissism in predicting different types of lies in romantic relationships”, was authored by Nico Harhoff, Nina Reinhardt, Marc-André Reinhard, and Michael Mayer.