Within psychology, there are two main branches of research into narcissism, clinical and social psychology. These approaches differ in their view of narcissism with the former treating it as a disorder, thus as discrete, and the latter treating it as a personality trait, thus as a continuum.
These two strands of research tend loosely to stand in a divergent relation to one another, although they converge in places.
Campbell and Foster (2007) review the literature on narcissism. They argue that narcissists possess the following ‘basic ingredients’:
- Positive. Narcissists think they are better than others.
- Inflated. Narcissists’ views tend to be contrary to reality. In measures which compare self-report to objective measures, narcissists' self-views tend to be greatly exaggerated.
- Agentic. Narcissists’ views tend to be most exaggerated in the agentic domain, relative to the communion domain..
- Selfish. Research upon narcissists’ behaviour in resource dilemmas supports the case for narcissists as being selfish.
- Oriented toward success. Narcissists are oriented towards success by being, for example, approach oriented
Also, narcissists tend to demonstrate a lack of interest in warm and caring interpersonal relationships. Campbell and Forster (2007) who conducted a study in which two experiments were conducted.
In both experiments, participants took part an achievement task following which they were provided with false feedback; it was either bogus success or failure. It was found that both narcissists and non-narcissists self-enhanced, but non-narcissists showed more flexibility in doing so. Participants were measured on both a comparative and a non-comparative self-enhancement strategy.
It was found that both narcissists and non-narcissists employed the non-comparative strategy similarly; however, narcissists were found to be more self-serving with the comparative strategy, employing it far more, than non-narcissists, suggesting a greater rigidity with their self-enhancement.
When narcissists receive negative feedback which threatens the self, they will self-enhance at all costs whereas non-narcissists tend to have limits.
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Last Updated: Feb 1, 2011