Why do you find covert narcissists fascinating
Psychologists decipher the social consequences of narcissism
They are dazzling personalities: On the one hand, narcissists are often fascinating and attractive to other people. You make a charming impression and more often hold management positions. On the other hand, they are uncomfortable. They do not care about the needs of other people, they overestimate their contribution to mutual achievements, are arrogant and provoke conflicts.
A research group led by the psychologists Mitja Back and Albrecht Küfner from the University of Münster has now presented new research results that explain these paradoxical effects. Accordingly, two sides of narcissism can be distinguished: the narcissistic need for admiration, which goes hand in hand with a self-confident and charming demeanor, and the narcissistic rivalry. The latter is associated with devaluing other people and aggressive behavior, especially after criticism.
In a series of studies, the psychologists from Münster, together with colleagues, were able to show that although the two sides of narcissism go hand in hand, they have different effects on social encounters and social relationships. An increased need for admiration is associated with greater self-confidence, a more positive mood, a more extraverted demeanor, and greater popularity when getting to know each other. In contrast, narcissistic rivalry leads to the devaluation of others, less popularity in social groups and more conflicts in friendships, but also in romantic relationships.
"These findings make it clear that narcissists have two faces," explains Mitja Back. "Both strategies serve the narcissists to maintain their supposed greatness. They are, however, differently effective. Depending on which of the two sides is more strongly expressed in a social context, narcissism is associated with social success or with social conflict and unpopularity. "
"Doers" with little social competence
Such a close look helps to understand the consequences of narcissism in many social contexts - for example in friendships, romantic relationships and social relationships in the workplace - and over the duration of relationships. "When we get to know narcissists, because of their self-confident and expressive behavior, they often appear sympathetic, attractive or as 'doers'", explains Albrecht Küfner. "Only later, when closer interactions show that narcissists pay less attention to others and react irritably to criticism, does it lead to a decline in popularity among peers, conflicts in couple relationships and a lack of success at work."
The Münster psychologists now want to build on the results of their studies and address a number of open questions, for example: Which narcissists manage to be socially successful, and which are more likely to fail? Who benefits from narcissists and who suffers from them? How aware are narcissists of their own narcissism, and how is the transition to narcissistic personality disorders to be understood? (red, derStandard.at, 10.9.2013)
Back, M. D., Küfner, A. C. P., Dufner, M., Gerlach, T. M., Rauthmann, J. F., & Denissen, J. J. A. (in press). Narcissistic admiration and rivalry: Disentangling the bright and dark sides of narcissism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Küfner, A. C. P., Nestler, S., & Back M. D. (2013). The two pathways to being an (un-) popular narcissist. Journal of Personality, 81, 184-195.
On the subject
Narcissism: Altered Brain Anatomy
Neurotic, narcissistic, or simply dysfunctional
Narcissism: Too little breast milk for the psyche
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