Closer Look Narcissism and Social Interaction

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Narcissism is a personality dimension that involves, at the upper end, high levels of self-absorption and conceited-ness, placing one's own wants and needs above those of others, displaying unusual grandiosity, showing a profound sense of entitlement, and lacking empathy for other people's feelings, needs, and desires (see Chapters 10 and 14; Raskin & Terry, 1988). Those high on narcissism tend to be exhibitionistic (e.g., flaunting money to impress others), grandiose (e.g., talking about how great they are), self-centered (e.g., taking the best piece of food for themselves), and interpersonally exploitative (e.g., using others for selfish ends) (Buss & Chiodo, 1991). Recently, personality psychologists have documented the impact of narcissism on social interaction, providing a fascinating illustration of the influence of personality on social selection, evocation, and manipulation.

In terms of selection, narcissists tend to choose people who admire them, who will reflect the extraordinarily positive view they hold about themselves. They don't want people around who will view them as anything other than as extraordinary, beautiful, or brilliant (Buss & Chiodo, 1991). In fact, because narcissists view themselves as "exceptional performers," they tend to select social situations in which they perceive that their "opportunity for glory" will be enhanced, and conversely avoid situations in which their self-perceived magnificence will not be noticed by others (Wallace & Baumeister, 2002). While they tend to appoint themselves to positions of power (Buss &

Chiodo, 1991), they strenuously avoid social situations that don't afford the chance to show off their brilliance (Wallace & Baumeister, 2002). Life, however, sometimes has a way of crashing in, and narcissists are sometimes rejected. When they are rejected, narcissists tend to lash out with great anger at those they perceive to have wronged them. Interestingly, narcissists are highly selective in their social percep-tions—they view themselves as victims of interpersonal transgressions far more frequently than those low on narcissism (McCullough, Emmons, Kilpatrick, & Mooney, 2003).

In the mating domain, the romantic partner selections of narcissists may be more precarious than those of others, since they score low on commitment to their partner, perhaps because they view themselves as "better" or more desirable than their partner (Campbell & Foster, 2002; Campbell, Rudich, & Sedikedes, 2002). Narcissists also are highly resistant to entertaining doubts about the commitment of their romantic partners (Foster & Campbell, 2005). When asked in an experiment to list possible reasons why their current romantic partner might be less committed than they are to the relationship, narcissists had great difficulty even completing the task! After the task, narcissists (compared with those low on narcissism) indicated substantially lower levels of their own commitment to their romantic partner and a greater willingness to accept a dating invitation from someone else. Narcissistic entitlement has also been linked to an inability to forgive others, a quality that could also impair the functioning of romantic relationships (Exline, Baumeister, Bushman, Campbell, & Finkel, 2004).

Narcissists also evoke predictable responses from others in their social environment. Because they are exhibitionistic and thrust themselves into the center of attention, narcissists sometimes split people in their evocations— some view them as brilliant, entertaining, and "not boring," whereas others view them as selfish and boorish (Campbell, Rudich, & Sedikedes, 2002). They sometimes evoke anger in others because of their self-aggrandizing actions, such as pulling rank on others to make a point.

Narcissists also use a predictable set of tactics of manipulation. They are highly exploitative of others and would be described as "users." They use friends ruthlessly for their wealth or connections. When in positions of power, they use their positions to exploit subordinates and show no hesitation in pulling rank to humiliate someone else in front of others. They react to failure with ferocious attempts to derogate other people, possibly in an attempt to transfer the blame for their failure onto others (South, Oltmanns, & Turkheimer, 2003). They also lash out in anger and aggression against others when confronted with their own failure, as described in Chapter 14. In sum, the personality dimension of narcissism shows many links to the social selections they make, the reactions they evoke from others, and the tactics of manipulation they use to enhance their self-centered goals.

provide logical explanations for wanting it done, and explain the underlying rationale for doing it. A recent study found that low-conscientious individuals are more likely to use criminal strategies in gaining resources, as indicated by arrest records and recidivism (being rearrested after being let out of prison) (Clower & Bothwell, 2001).

Emotionally unstable individuals use a wide variety of tactics to manipulate others—hardball and coercion, but also reason and monetary reward. The tactic most commonly used by emotionally unstable people, however , is regression. These people pout, sulk, whine, and cry to get their way . In a sense, this kind of behavior comes close to the core definition of emotional instability—the display of volatile emotions some positive and some negative. But the fascinating part of these findings is that th emotional volatility is strategically motivated—it is used with the purpose of influ encing others to get what they want.

What tactics do people high on intellect-openness use? Not surprisingly , these smart and perceptive people tend to use reason above all other tactics. They also use pleasure induction and responsibility invocation, however—findings that are not a intuitively obvious. Can you guess which tactic those low on intellect-openness use? They tend to use social comparison—saying that everyone else is doing it, comparing the partner with someone else who would do it, and telling others that they will look stupid if they do not do it.

In summary, these results provide strong evidence that personality dispositions are not static entities residing passively in the skulls of people. They have profound implications for social interaction—in this case, for the tactics people use to manipulate others in their social environment. In some cases, the links between personality dispositions and the tactics used are rather obvious and almost part of the definition the use of regression by emotionally unstable people, for example, or the use of reason by agreeable people. In other cases, the results are not as intuitively obvious—the finding that submissive people tend to use the hardball tactic, for example, or the fin ing that those low on intellect-openness tend to use social comparison.

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