Social Psychology Eye
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Tag Archives: narcissism
A recent study by Soraya Mehdizadeh has made the news because it made an interesting connection between Facebook profiles and personality traits like narcissism. The study found that the more times a person checked Facebook, the higher they scored on narcissism. Also, there was a significant relationship between self-promotional content and narcissism scales. According to the study, for women self promotional content tended to include images of “revealing, flashy and adorned photos of their physical appearance” while for men, their “about me” descriptions highlighted their intelligence and wit. However, the study also finds that people with low self-esteem also check their Facebook pages more often.
The link between self-esteem and narcissism has been hard to understand for years despite ample research on both topics. According to a review done by Bossom and colleagues the problem in understanding the connections between narcissism and self-esteem is that some research has shown that narcissism is actually a mask to hide low self-esteem, but other research has failed to show this pattern. According to the review there are several subtypes of narcissism that have different relationships with self-esteem. Furthermore, the research on self-esteem shows that different aspects of the self may be being measured depending on the type of self-esteem measure being used.
The research on Facebook adds an interesting piece to the puzzle as it reveals the way in which both low self-esteem and narcissism are manifesting as the same behaviour on social networking site. The mask theory of narcissism (that it is used to mask low self-esteem) might make sense here as people’s grandiose view of themself is being broadcasted through constant use and updating of their Facebook profiles; while a need for validation that goes along with deeper low self-esteem is driving them to seek instant feedback (something Facebook can uniquely provide) from their friends.
By Kevin R. Betts
Sitting next to my grandpa in the back seat of my mom’s car last week, I listened to him critique his daughter’s driving: “I could have made it through that gap three times by now.” “How do you get anywhere?” “How come Kevin isn’t driving?” Seemingly unaffected by my grandpa’s comments, my mom and grandma discussed the things they wanted to do before our family vacation in Traverse City, Michigan was over. Reminiscent for me of the humorous website http://shitmydadsays.com/, I just laughed.
Although my grandpa’s comments are humorous, the aggressive driving habits he hopes my mom will adopt are not. Just a month earlier than our vacation, a man in the same city sped down a local road and rolled his vehicle, killing one passenger and seriously injuring another. Around the world, similar stories are heard. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that 37,261 people died on U.S. roads in 2008 alone.
Hoping to shed light on factors that influence aggressive driving like that resulting in the abovementioned accident, Michele Lustman and colleagues (2010) surveyed a sample of motorists, collecting information about their driving habits and personality characteristics. Results revealed a link between trait narcissism and both perception of intentionality following road incidents and aggressive driving behaviors. Specifically, motorists with high self-esteem were more likely than those with low self-esteem to perceive ambiguous road incidents as intentional, and to react to those incidents aggressively. The researchers suggest that the aggressive reactions of these drivers may be in response to threatened high self-esteem that results from perceived offenses by other drivers.
According to psychological professor Jean M. Twenge, Generation Me describes anyone born in the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s — in the approaching 2010, this will mean people between the ages of 11 and 40. These are today’s young people, those who while remarkably diverse in many respects, share a unifying aspect: they are “unapologetically focused on the individual,” a trait inherited from their Boomer parents and fanned to extremes by the culture they engendered.
Is it true? Are we in a narcissism epidemic? Does the Generation Me really differ from their parents and grandparents? Social scientists have been interested in generational changes for decades. Questions about generational changes are of particular interest to psychologists who are interested in whether the broader sociocultural environment is linked with changes in personality attributes and attitudes. For example, Twenge (2008) has concluded that today’s young people have higher self-esteem, more inflated self views, higher levels of narcissism, and perhaps paradoxically, more misery than previous generations. Twenge has further tied these shifts in personality to shifts toward increased individualism and a focus on self-worth that she believes characterizes the culture of the United States in more recent decades. However, Donnellan and Trzesniewski’s (2009) most recent research led to suspicion about the strength of the evidence in support of Twenge’s broad ‘Generation Me’ claims. According to their opinions, there are two crucial issues about Twenge’s research on Generation Me: whether the evidence for generational differences is based on a sound methodology and how to best characterize the size of any generational differences. Instead they found more evidence for generational consistency than generational change in their studies and thus concluded that there are enough concerns to warrant caution and qualified statements about the evidence for ‘Generation Me.’
Based on these concerns, it might be better for social and personality psychologists to think carefully before drawing the blanket conclusion that today’s young people are much different from previous generations of youth. Whether today’s young people are more assertive, entitled, self-aggrandizement and miserable than ever before is still a question which deserves more research in the future.
Donnellan, M.B., & Trzesniewski, K.H. (2009). How Should We Study Generational ‘Changes’—Or Should We? A Critical Examination of the Evidence for ‘Generation Me’. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 3,775 – 784.
Narcissism is itself a slippery concept that psychologists have debated for years. How to define it and how to measure it have been looming questions as well as the extent to which a certain level of narcissism may be adaptive in a psychological sense. More recently, however, Twenge and colleagues have published volumes about the current narcissism “epidemic” plaguing those of us in our 20s and 30s.
According to Twenge, there are significant differences between “cohorts” (generations) in terms of narcissism, with young adults today having higher levels of self-esteem and narcissistic attitudes making them worthy of the “Generation Me” moniker. In a recent Social and Personality Psychology Compass article, however, Donnellan and colleagues argue otherwise. They present compelling evidence that the differences, if there are any, are only very slight. Additionally, they claim that any differences are not generalizable to the larger population because of the convenience sampling of college students. Further, they critique the notion of grouping generations of individuals under a larger umbrella that is only defined by a few questions on a scale.
Their critique raises important questions not only about method and measurement, but about the interconnection between social and personality psychology with “popular sentiment” and the way in which academic — ‘scientific’ — research is uniquely positioned to corroborate or complicate the reality which surrounds us.