In recent research published in the Personality and Individual Differences journal, it was discovered that individuals exhibiting higher levels of narcissistic rivalry tend to consistently hold negative views about others, especially regarding their intelligence. The study, led by University of Warsaw professor Marcin Zajenkowski, provides a holistic understanding of the complex interplay between personality, memory, and perception.
Narcissism is not a single-dimensional trait synonymous with self-love or vanity. In the realm of psychology, it is understood to have more depth — primarily comprising two facets: narcissistic admiration and rivalry. While the admiration aspect relates to self-enhancement and promoting oneself, rivalry is characterized by self-defense and often results in belittling others.
Previous studies have noted that those with elevated narcissistic admiration tend to overestimate their own intelligence. However, the way narcissism affects the assessment of others’ intelligence has not been thoroughly probed — until now.
It is human nature to evaluate ourselves and others. How we perceive our own intelligence and that of those around us can significantly influence interpersonal relationships, job opportunities, and more. Since narcissism, and particularly its facet of rivalry, often involves comparing oneself to others, the researchers wanted to explore how this trait might impact our perceptions of another’s intelligence.
To unpack this intricate relationship, the study enlisted 328 Polish participants, recruited through either snowball sampling or social network websites. Participants’ ages ranged from 18 to 64, with an average age of about 27 years. Although 32 participants were eventually excluded for failing to complete the entire study, all were required to complete a Narcissistic Admiration and Rivalry Questionnaire, or NARQ, as well as a demographic survey.
The NARQ measures different aspects of grandiose narcissism — admiration and rivalry — and consists of 18 statements (ex. “I secretly take pleasure in the failure of my rivals”), to which each participant was required to pick a response determining their level of agreement. For each statement, there were six response options that ranged from totally disagree to totally agree. Participants then assessed their own intelligence on a scale and compared it with assessments of others’ intelligence.
All of them were divided into two conditions: recalling a feeling of acceptance or rejection and assessing the individual involved in that memory. The manipulation check required participants to rate attributes of the person in the recalled memory, and then their current emotions were gauged.
Participants who tapped into memories of rejection perceived others as possessing fewer communal attributes, such as empathy, and notably, as having lower intelligence — however, this didn’t extend to other agentic attributes. Moreover, while narcissistic admiration was positively tied with how participants assessed their own intelligence, narcissistic rivalry displayed a negative correlation with their evaluations of others’ intelligence. This trend held true irrespective of whether the participants felt accepted or rejected.
While the research provides valuable insights into how certain narcissistic traits might shape our assessments of others, especially regarding intelligence, there are a few things to bear in mind. Firstly, the research hinges on recalled memories, which can be subjective and influenced by various factors over time. In addition, the study’s setup and results are correlational, meaning while there’s an association between narcissistic traits and intelligence judgment, one doesn’t necessarily cause the other. Moreover, the participants’ judgments were based on their memories, which might not fully reflect how they would evaluate strangers or acquaintances in real-world situations.
The study, “I’m smart, you’re dumb! Narcissistic admiration and rivalry correlate with self and other-assessed intelligence“, was authored by Marcin Zajenkowski, Gilles E. Gignac, Maria Leniarska, Anna Turek, and Zuzanna Czepiel.