Researchers In Italy were curious if sadism and grandiose narcissism may be related and what traits may facilitate this relationship. Their findings indicate that malicious envy and narcissistic rivalry are the characteristics that connect sadism to grandiose narcissism. The research has been published in Personality and Individual Differences.
Sadism refers to the tendency to derive pleasure from the suffering of others. It has been identified as a component of the “dark tetrad” along with Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and narcissism.
The tendency to take control of others is a key characteristic of grandiose narcissism and may have a common component with sadism. Researchers have posited that sadistic behavior is not only about seeking pleasure, but also about the desire to assert power and dominance. The relationship between grandiose narcissism and sadism may be explained by two processes: narcissistic rivalry and malicious envy.
The phenomenon of narcissistic rivalry is marked by negative emotions when someone else receives attention, and positive emotions when others fail. Malicious envy arises when people compare themselves unfavorably to others who possess qualities, property, or success. This, in turn, results in feelings of anger and hostility.
In their new study, Guyonne Rogier and colleagues sought to shed light on the complex relationship between sadism and grandiose narcissism, and the psychological traits that link them together.
In a sample of 3,240 Italian university students, various aspects of envy, sadistic personality, and narcissism were measured using self-report questionnaires. The study utilized the Benign and Malicious Envy Scale (BeMaS) to gauge envy levels, while the Assessment of Sadistic Personality (ASP) and Narcissistic Admiration and Rivalry Questionnaire (NARQ) were utilized to measure subclinical sadism and narcissism, respectively. Additionally, the Pathological Narcissism Inventory (PNI) was used to evaluate grandiose and vulnerable narcissism levels.
The findings indicated that the I-BeMaS effectively measured two different dimensions of envy, distinguishing between the positive and negative aspects of the construct, and had strong psychometric qualities. The study also discovered a significant affirmative link between grandiose narcissism and sadism, with both malicious envy and narcissistic rivalry acting as mediators between grandiose narcissism and sadism.
“Narcissistic rivalry is a multidimensional construct that include aggressiveness, struggle for supremacy and joy in response to other’s failures. Individuals with grandiose narcissism would
be therefore prone to experience pleasure when assisting to others’ pain and especially when this pain is related to a position of inferiority. Our results suggest that grandiose narcissism may be related to the seeking of pleasure in provoking or observing pain in others as it would strengthen their positive self-image, eliciting positive feelings of self-worth,” the researchers wrote.
“Regarding malicious envy, a similar interpretation of our results can be formulated. Indeed, malicious envy, in contrast with benign envy, would be triggered by the observation of others’ success and good fortune. Theoretically, in individuals with grandiose narcissism, this perception would elicit hostile feelings towards the fortunate other, as its good fortune would be perceived as an ego threat. This would motivate these individuals to desire other’s failure and the destruction of their superior status.”
The findings have implications beyond the study of pathological personalities, as envy likely plays a role in various psychological and psychopathological outcomes such as depression and anxiety. The study also helps validate the Italian version of I-BeMaS and provides initial evidence of the reliability of the Italian version of ASP items, which assesses the subjugating aspects of sadism. In summary, the study highlights the intricate connections between grandiose narcissism, envy, and sadism, emphasizing the necessity for more research in this area.
The research team acknowledged some limitations to their study. Firstly, only self-report questionnaires were employed, which may not be the best method for investigating ego-syntonic variables. Second, the study found a significant association between narcissistic rivalry and malicious envy, which supports previous research on the topic. The present study employed a cross-sectional design, which makes it difficult to test mediational hypotheses.
The study, “Pathological narcissism and sadistic personality: The role of rivalry and malicious envy“, was authored by Guyonne Rogier, Alessandro Amo, Beatrice Simmi, and Patrizia Velotti.