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Gordon C. Nagayama Hall, Ph.D.
Gordon C. Nagayama Hall, Ph.D.

Is Narcissism the Cost of Being an American?

Americans are more narcissistic than people in other countries.

By Pogrebnoj-Alexandroff/wikimedia commons
Source: By Pogrebnoj-Alexandroff/wikimedia commons

We’re #1! We Americans like to see ourselves as better than others. And research indicates that we are #1. In narcissism. People in the United States are more narcissistic than people in other countries. Narcissism includes being:

  • self-centered
  • extraverted
  • exhibitionistic
  • self-satisfied
  • self-indulgent
  • nonconforming
  • dominant
  • aggressive
  • impulsive

Americans view themselves as being more narcissistic than people in other countries. And people in other countries agree. The United States is the most narcissistic nation in the world and everyone knows it. We are a nation of narcissists.

Why is narcissism a particularly American trait? Americans are particularly individualistic. They are more narcissistic than people in countries that have a greater other-than self-focus. These include Japan and other Asian countries. Not all Americans are narcissists. But our desire to “stand out from the crowd” may make the United States a breeding ground for narcissism.

Narcissists are likable at first

Narcissists can be attractive. They are often popular because of their confidence and assertiveness. Donald Trump, who some mental health professionals describe as narcissistic, was popular enough to be elected President.

Narcissists are likable until you get to know them. We dislike narcissists because they don’t care about others and can become aggressive and antagonistic.

President Trump and America's narcissism

President Trump has been blamed for making narcissism contagious. But is President Trump more narcissistic than other Americans? Some mental health professionals think so. They believe that President Trump has a pathological level of narcissism. Yet, psychiatrist Allen Frances, one of the authors of the manual for diagnosing mental illness, disagrees. This means that President Trump is not any more narcissistic than many other Americans.

Have we really become more narcissistic since Trump was elected? Researchers reviewed studies from 1990 to 2013 using the Narcissistic Personality Inventory. The results indicate that Americans were just as narcissistic in 2013 as we were three decades ago. It is possible that the United States has become more narcissistic since 2013 but unlikely. So, President Trump hasn’t made us any more narcissistic than we already are. President Trump is a product of a narcissistic society rather than a cause of it. Blaming Trump shifts the focus from our national responsibility for narcissism.

Is narcissism the cost of being an American? When President Trump is out of office, Americans will not stop being narcissistic. And Trump may not be our last narcissistic leader. Are we unhappy with American narcissism? If so, we could take a collective look at why Americans generally care more about themselves than others. Or are we too narcissistic to do this?


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About the Author
Gordon C. Nagayama Hall, Ph.D.

Gordon C. Nagayama Hall, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at the University of Oregon with a focus in culture and mental health.

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