Shining a Light on Dark Personalities | Part Two: Noticing the Narcissist

Miriam King is currently a Lecturer in Psychology in Carlow College, St Patrick’s. Miriam’s research interests include dark personality traits, defence mechanisms, criminal psychology and clinical psychology. This four-part series introduces the reader to the distinct yet overlapping traits of the Dark Tetrad: 1) Spotting the Sadist; 2) Noticing the Narcissist; 3) Meeting the Machiavellian; 4) Pinpointing the Psychopath

Noticing the Narcissist

What is Narcissism?

Narcissism has its origins in a Greek myth featuring Narcissus, a handsome hunter, who fell in love and became completely absorbed with his own reflection, never realizing it was actually himself.

The dark trait of narcissism involves a grandiose sense of self, entitlement, a belief that one’s own needs and goals are more important than others, and an inflated sense of importance and deservingness (Krizan & Herlache, 2018).

Narcissists often seek attention and praise, they tend to take credit for the work and achievements of others, and put themselves at the centre of everything (Lyons, 2019).

Narcissism spans a continuum from normal to pathological and can be present in clinical and general populations (Blaiss & Little, 2010).  The clinical version of the trait of narcissism is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2013).

Misconceptions and Manifestations

A narcissist’s ego is akin to a balloon blown to full capacity: inflated, yet fragile. Narcissism can have two expressions: grandiose narcissism, and vulnerable narcissism (Jauk & Kaufman, 2018). Vulnerable narcissism is more common among females whereas grandiose narcissism is more common among males (Casale et al. 2019; Jauk et al., 2017; Zajenkowski, & Szymaniak, 2021). Narcissistic grandiosity typically consists of exhibitionism, admiration-seeking, boldness, and dominance, while narcissistic vulnerability often involves introversion, withdrawal, hypersensitivity, and anxiety (Jauk & Kaufman, 2018). Male narcissists are more likely to feel a sense of entitlement and exploit others (Grijalva et al., 2015).

Narcissism has been linked to lies about popularity, dominance, and appearance (Jonason et al., 2014). Narcissists tend to prefer job roles that facilitate the social approval and admiration of others (Jonason et al., 2014).

Those high in narcissism can make a positive first impression, however,  these initial impressions tend to quickly deteriorate (Carlson et al., 2011).

Motivations and Psychological Factors

Narcissism is associated with self-deception and a tendency to have self-perceptions that are unrealistically positive (Carlson et al., 2011; Paulhus & Vazire, 2007).

Being high in the trait of narcissism has been linked to a variety of factors including social factors, biological factors and parenting style – specifically overindulgence by parents (Capron, 2004; Grijalva et al., 2015; Hart et al., 2017).

 Narcissism has a strong relationship to social desirability (Kowalski et al., 2018). When their strategies fail, a narcissist may react with aggression and vengeance due to their concerns about reputation and sensitivity to threats to their ego (Lyons, 2019).

References and Further Reading:

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).

Blais, M. A., & Little, J. A. (2010). Toward an integrative study of narcissism. Personality disorders, 1(3), 197–201.

Capron, E. W. (2004). Types of pampering and the narcissistic personality trait. The Journal of Individual Psychology, 60(1), 77–93.

Carlson, E. N., Vazire, S., & Oltmanns, T. F. (2011). You probably think this paper’s about you: narcissists’ perceptions of their personality and reputation. Journal of personality and social psychology, 101(1), 185–201.

Casale, S., Rugai, L., Giangrasso, B., & Fioravanti, G. (2019). Trait-Emotional Intelligence and the Tendency to Emotionally Manipulate Others Among Grandiose and Vulnerable Narcissists. The Journal of psychology, 153(4), 402–413.

Chabrol, H., Melioli, T., Van Leeuwen, N., Rodgers, R., & Goutaudier, N. (2015). The Dark Tetrad: Identifying personality profiles in high-school students. Personality and Individual Differences, 83, 97–101.

Grijalva, E., Newman, D. A., Tay, L., Donnellan, M. B., Harms, P. D., Robins, R. W., & Yan, T. (2015). Gender differences in narcissism: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 141(2), 261–310.

Jauk, E., & Kaufman, S. B. (2018). The Higher the Score, the Darker the Core: The Nonlinear Association Between Grandiose and Vulnerable Narcissism. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 1305.

Jauk, E., Weigle, E., Lehmann, K., Benedek, M., & Neubauer, A. C. (2017). The relationship between grandiose and vulnerable (hypersensitive) narcissism. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, Article 1600.

Jonason, P. K., Lyons, M., Baughman, H. M., & Vernon, P. A. (2014). What a tangled web we weave: The Dark Triad traits and deception. Personality and Individual Differences, 70, 117–119.

Hart, W., Adams, J., Burton, K. A., & Tortoriello, G. K. (2017). Narcissism and self-presentation: Profiling grandiose and vulnerable Narcissists’ self-presentation tactic use. Personality and Individual Differences, 104, 48–57.

Kowalski, C., Rogoza, R., Vernon, P., & Schermer, J. (2018). The Dark Triad and the self-presentation variables of socially desirable responding and self-monitoring. Personality and Individual Differences. 120. 10.1016/j.paid.2017.09.007.

Krizan, Z., & Herlache, A. D. (2018). The Narcissism Spectrum Model: A Synthetic View of Narcissistic Personality. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 22(1), 3–31.

Lyons, M. (2019). The dark triad of personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy in everyday life. Elsevier Academic Press.

Moshagen, M., Hilbig, B. E., & Zettler, I. (2018). The dark core of personality. Psychological Review, 125(5), 656–688.

Nietzsche, F. (1886/1998). Beyond good and evil. Dover Publications.

Pajevic, M., Vukosavljević-Gvozden, T.,  Stevanovic, N., & Neumann, C. (2018). The relationship between the Dark Tetrad and a two-dimensional view of empathy. Personality and Individual Differences. 123. 125-130. 10.1016/j.paid.2017.11.009.

Paulhus, D. L. (2014). Toward a Taxonomy of Dark Personalities. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23(6), 421–426.

Paulhus, D. L., & Vazire, S. (2007). The self-report method. In R. W. Robins, R. C. Fraley, & R. F. Krueger (Eds.), Handbook of research methods in personality psychology (pp. 224–239). The Guilford Press.

Paulhus, D. L., & Williams, K. M. (2002). The Dark Triad of personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy. Journal of Research in Personality, 36(6), 556–563.

Zajenkowski, M., & Szymaniak, K. (2021). Narcissism between facets and domains. The relationships between two types of narcissism and aspects of the Big Five. Current Psychology. 40. 1-10. 10.1007/s12144-019-0147-1.



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