Blind Spots in Narcissists’ Self-Perceptions

Abstract

Narcissism is a characteristic of individuals who have excessive self-love and self-admiration. Narcissists have overly positive self-images, and become aggressive and hostile when reality does not confirm their self-images; they use other people as a means to boost their self-admiration, which eventually leads to failed interpersonal relationships (Morf & Rhodewalt, 2001). It has been documented that younger generations are more narcissistic than older generations (Twenge et al., 2008), casting concerns about younger generations’ psychological well-being. The present study examined how narcissists are perceived by self and friends.    Participants completed the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (Raskin & Terry, 1988). Each participant and two close friends rated the participant’s  personality characteristics on the 100-item California Adult Q-Sort (CAQ; Block, 2008). The CAQ assesses a wide range of behavioral, cognitive, and emotional characteristics. Narcissism scores were related to CAQ ratings by self and friends.   The results indicated that narcissists, as expected, perceived themselves very favorably. They described themselves as being “personally charming” (r = .38) and “interesting and colorful” (r = .28). In contrast, friends perceived narcissists such as being “subtly negativistic” (r = .39) and “self-defensive (r = .37). Participants’ and friends’ ratings of narcissists showed overlap only on relatively neutral characteristics (e.g., talkative, r = .32).  These findings highlight the discrepancy between self and friends’ perceptions of narcissists. Narcissists may gain self-insight by acknowledging the discrepancy in perceptions.