Have you ever wondered what type of person has inferiority or superiority complexes? A study published in Personality and Individual Differences explores different personality traits, including the Dark Triad and the Big Five, and how they relate to these complexes.
Inferiority and superiority complexes can both stem from feelings of low self-worth, but they present in different ways. Inferiority can come from feelings of incompleteness and helplessness. If a person can’t compensate, they may develop an inferiority complex that leads them to avoid situations that reveal their weaknesses. On the other hand, overcompensation for these feelings can lead to a superiority complex, where one overemphasizes their capabilities.
The Dark Triad traits encompass narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy, representing negative personality traits such as self-importance, manipulation, and lack of empathy. On the other hand, the Big Five traits consist of openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism, encompassing broader aspects of personality.
Previous research has linked inferiority and superiority complexes with personality traits such as neuroticism and extraversion, but there is a gap in literature regarding their relationships with the Dark Triad and the Big Five model, which this study seeks to address.
Dorde Cekrlija and his colleagues utilized 1,046 Serbian participants recruited online to serve as the sample for this study. The sample was predominantly female and had ages ranging from 18 to 72 years old. Participants completed self-report measures on superiority complexes, inferiority complexes, the Dark Triad traits of Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy, and the Big Five personality traits of neuroticism, agreeableness, extraversion, conscientiousness, and openness.
Results showed that inferiority complexes were strongly and positively correlated with neuroticism, but showed small, negative relationships with conscientiousness, agreeableness, and extraversion. Inferiority complexes were positively related to Machiavellianism and narcissism.
Superiority complexes were linked positively to conscientiousness and extraversion, and negatively related to agreeableness. Superiority complexes were also linked to all three Dark Triad traits, with narcissism being the strongest link. Surprisingly, the researchers found that neuroticism did not significantly contribute to the explanation of the superiority complex.
Inferiority complexes were best predicted by Big Five traits, specifically neuroticism, while superiority complexes were best predicted by Dark Triad traits, specifically narcissism. These results better explain how personality traits can contribute to complexes.
The researchers noted that narcissism appeared to plays a key role in the explanation of both inferiority and superiority complexes. This suggests that both complexes may reflect a self-oriented and egocentric orientation, with less interest in others or the community in general. The association between narcissism and the inferiority complex may represent vulnerable narcissism, while the association with the superiority complex may reflect grandiose narcissism.
This study took important steps into understanding personality and inferiority/superiority complexes. Despite this, there are limitations to note. One such limitation is that the study leaned heavily toward female, limiting generalizability of the sample. Additionally, measures used were short and have reduced reliabilities; future research could use more established measures.
The study, “Relationship between inferiority and superiority complex and the Big Five and Dark Triad traits“, was authored by Đorđe Čekrlija, Nikola Miloš Rokvić, Bojana M. Dinić, and Julie Aitken Schermer.