A team of scientists led by Marcin Zajenkowski of the University of Warsaw in Poland found evidence for what researchers call “assortative mating,” or the tendency to engage in romantic relationships with people who possess similar characteristics to oneself, in a sample of 150 Polish heterosexual couples. Specifically, people who scored high on the personality dimension of narcissism tended to be with partners who also scored high on narcissism, while people who scored low on narcissism tended to be with less narcissistic partners.
Previous research hinted that such a relationship might exist, but this study provides more compelling evidence that narcissists may indeed flock together.
“We confirmed our hypothesis of assortative mating for narcissism which is consistent with previous findings,” say the authors. “Thus, our results corroborate the broader compatibility literature in the area of romantic relationships, as well as the literature specific to narcissism and compatibility. Narcissists look for prospective partners similar to themselves—that is, self-oriented rather than other-oriented.”
To come to this conclusion, the psychologists recruited 150 heterosexual Polish couples, 32 percent of whom were married, to participate in an in-person study. Participants were asked to complete a scale that measured “grandiose narcissism,” or the tendency to express interpersonal dominance, elevated self-esteem, and an overestimation of one's abilities, with items such as “I have a natural talent for influencing people” and “I like to be complimented.”
The scientists calculated the degree to which individuals exhibited narcissistic personality traits and then compared those scores with the scores of their partners. They found a near-significant correlation between one’s own level of narcissism and one’s partner’s level of narcissism, suggesting that assortative mating exists among narcissists.
That wasn’t the only thing they found. They also asked participants to fill out a short intelligence test and to report their self-assessed level of intelligence. Four additional findings emerged from this line of questioning, described below.
1. Narcissists overestimated their own level of intelligence. This finding is consistent with past research that has shown that narcissists are more likely to view themselves as more intelligent. The scientists also found that male and female narcissists were equally likely to commit the overestimation.
2. Female narcissists scored higher on intelligence tests. The researchers found evidence to suggest female narcissists may, in fact, possess higher intelligence than female non-narcissistics. This pattern was not found for males.
3. Narcissistic women tended to be with men who they perceived to be intelligent. The scientists found that narcissistic women placed more value on having an intelligent partner than narcissistic men. This may be due to the fact that men choose partners more on the basis of physical attractiveness and less on intelligence.
4. Narcissistic couples were no more or less happy than other couples. Interestingly, the researchers found no evidence that narcissism was related to relationship satisfaction. What was predictive of relationship satisfaction? The degree to which one’s partner was happy in the relationship.
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Zajenkowski, M., & Gignac, G. E. Narcissism and intelligence among couples: Why are narcissistic women perceived as intelligent by their romantic partners?. Personality and Individual Differences, 172, 110579.