The Big Questions

Life, death and free will.

Do Narcissists Hate Themselves, Deep, Deep Down?

Do narcissists love AND hate themselves?

Narcissists love - and hate - themselves deep, deep down.

Years and years ago, psychoanalytic thinkers (like Freud) argued that an inflated sense of self-worth (like in narcissism) reflects implicit, unconscious, dislike for oneself.

In a study published by W Keith Campbell, a psychology professor at the University of Georgia, and colleagues similar ideas were tested. Specifically, people were asked to rate themselves on both agentic and communal traits. Agentic traits reflect perceptions of power and ability, and communal traits include reflect kindness, generousity and cooperation. These traits were measured both at an implicit (unconscious, automatic) level and at an explicit (conscious, reflective) level. All participants were also given a scale to determine their level of narcissism.

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Did narcissists hate themselves deep, deep down, like Frued would've have guessed? Well the answer is yes - and no.

Not surprisingly, explicitly, narcissists reported highly positive perceptions of their agentic traits. They also had positive implicit self-esteem on these agentic traits. That is, in terms of traits like dominant and assertive, narcissists implicitly and explicitly scored higher than other people. Frued then, was wrong about narcissists uniformly hating themselves implicitly.

However, Frued was right in one way - narcissism was unrelated to implicit self-esteem on the communal traits (kind, generous). That is, narcissists did not like themselves, deep, deep down on these traits. Interestingly, narcissism was also unrelated to explicit ratings on communal traits.

In combination, these results suggest, contrary to what many might believe, that narcissists do not love themselves on all traits. They think they are powerful and dominant, but not kind and generous. And further, these same attitudes exist at an implicit, automatic level.

Narcissists do love themselves - sort of -- both at an implicit and explicit level.

Reference:

http://www.sakkyndig.com/psykologi/artvit/campbell2007.pdf

Nathan Heflick completed his Ph.D. in social psychology at The University of South Florida.

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