Some traditional views of narcissism hold that the inflated ego, the constant need for attention and the unfounded sense of entitlement result from an individual’s unconscious self-loathing. However, new research suggests narcissists actually have a very positive self-view of themselves.
University of Georgia and University of South Florida researchers publish their findings in the March issue of Psychological Science, stating that narcissists do not uniformly dislike themselves “deep down inside.”
Previous studies have shown that narcissists’ conscious self-views are not uniformly positive. Narcissists see themselves as being above average in areas such as status, dominance and intelligence (what are referred to as agentic domains), but not in areas such as kindness, morality, and emotional intimacy (what are referred to as communal domains).
Following that line of thought, the researchers in this study tested the link between narcissism and unconscious self-views in these agentic and communal domains.
Conventional wisdom suggests that narcissism would have negative self-views. In other words, narcissists’ should unconsciously dislike themselves equally from their intelligence to their level of intimacy in relationships. Narcissists, however, had positive unconscious self-views on the agentic (but not communal) domains.
Study authors used an Implicit Association Test to assess the participant’s underlying views on their self-esteem. Essentially, the test works by recording reaction times to computer-based word associations and relies on the notion that the participants are not aware that their self-esteem is being assessed while they are taking the test. This test was tailored to measure narcissism as it relates to agency, communion, and self-esteem.
Narcissists reported positive unconscious self-views in agentic domains and not in communal areas. This study provides new evidence that narcissists exhibit a somewhat imbalanced self at both conscious and unconscious levels.