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Ackerman et al., (2017)

Filed under: Uncategorized — drcb @ 4:52 pm
33 Comments to “Ackerman et al., (2017)”
  1. Bengi says:

    It’s not a surprising finding that conceptualization of narcissism greatly varied between research- oriented professions and clinical professions. My initial thought was that this wouldn’t be unique to narcissism, even to personality disorders in general, but that the divide between the findings that come from research and practice exists. When working with people with personality disorders, clinicians might be able to see the two sides of a particular trait or constellation of traits as they meet this one person multiple times. Later encounters might reveal the characteristics that don’t surface in the self-report measures or in the first interviews and someone who reveals a side of her that relates to grandiosity might feel comfortable enough to touch upon the vulnerabilities way later. I understand that a clinician might focus both on grandiosity and vulnerability. The article starts from a very important insight that needs to be deciphered, but there is one drawback that I sense, which is associated with their methods of showing experts the lists of attributes associated with narcissism. While trying to address the gap between the understanding by clinical and research traditions, I find it contradictory that they went into literature to build their list, to then give the findings they derive to both clinicians and researchers. My contention was that research oriented opinions might be overrepresented but I think it helped that they clearly provided their publication search process. One other possible issue is that within the sample that they gathered, there might be differences as to how the person has been trained regardless of the name of the degree that they receive, especially considering how big psychology is as a discipline and how varied the paths are, which makes it difficult to talk about a strictly “research” or “clinical” training. It is also not valid to make experts look at constructs as opposed to making these people work with people and then see what they think regarding narcissism in the person they work with. This is just a list and to what extent it will match these experts’ work with actual people is disputable. Given this contradiction, it isn’t surprising to find no consensus in experts’ beliefs regarding FFM’s compass of narcissism and also that between clinical psychologists and researchers there wasn’t a significant difference regarding the consensus for the beliefs.

    • Sophie Schiff says:

      Hi Bengi – I completely agree that it is somewhat challenging to have experts discuss a construct without having a person or patient in mind, particularly for the more clinically-oriented. Additionally, I wonder if clinicians have a bias where they are seeking to identify a possible disorder in an individual, moreso than an academic who may see narcissism as less maladaptive and simply a construct that is worthy of discussion. It would have been interesting to explore how exactly each type of expert arrived at their understanding – was it based on their previous professional experience working with individuals with NPD or was it based on reading research related to narcissism that is focused more on the general construct outside of a clinical case?

    • Ariel Zuker says:

      Bengi – thank you for your comment. I agree that a possible limitation of this study could be in their methods of showing experts the pre-generated lists of attributes associated with narcissism. On one hand, that was my initial reaction to the methods as well. On the other hand, I appreciate how the the authors asked the participants if there was anything missing from their pre-generated list of constructs. 22% of the sample indicated concerns and as a result, the authors took this into account and listed these concerns in the paper.

  2. Sophie Schiff says:

    I have often been confused about how exactly narcissism is defined. Having grown up on stories of mythology, I always assumed narcissism simply implied self-obsession, rooted in the fact that Narcissus supposedly fell in love with his own reflection in the water. As I became more involved in psychology, the term became more complex. Over the past few years, my understanding of narcissism has become less clear, and I was comforted by this article’s goal of trying to clarify the various ways to understand the construct.

    However, this article somewhat further complicated my understanding of narcissism in a few ways. The first way is in its distinction between grandiose narcissism and vulnerable narcissism. On the one hand, the authors conclude that grandiose features are central to the construct and found general consensus about this among experts (entitlement, grandiose presentation of the self-concept, self-serving distortions, self-absorption/egocentricity). In terms of vulnerable features (such as instability of self-image), the authors note that there were varying degrees of consensus about how central these features were to narcissism. Although I do not know much about personality disorders, I found this to be quite intuitive that vulnerable features are not considered central to the definition of narcissism because elements such as egocentrism and elements such as instability of self-image do not seem to go hand in hand. However, the authors raise the alternative view that in other work, it has been shown that many clinicians see vulnerability as very important in Narcissistic Personality Disorder (p. 348). I struggle to understand what exactly narcissism is getting at as a construct if it contains both grandiosity and vulnerability and am curious to better understand the interplay of these features to help clarify my understanding of narcissism and to better understand how these two types of narcissism manifests in individuals’ behaviors and personalities. Do they typically co-occur or are they distinctive versions of narcissism?

    Along the same lines, the distinction between overt/covert expressions of narcissism was surprising to me. Personality, as we have learned, is typically characterized based on a person’s behaviors. For example, we classify someone as extraverted, if they demonstrate extraverted behaviors (and report that they do). However, I was struggling to fit narcissism into that model. For overt narcissism, it seems possible and quite simple to capture a person’s behaviors and identify those behaviors as a part of a narcissism. However, for covert narcissism, this seems more in line with someone’s thoughts/feelings and felt more akin to measuring someone’s depressive or anxious thoughts. Although these types of internal representations are of course related to behavior, they seem more in line with something like clinical measures of depression or anxiety focused on thoughts/feelings, and less in line with personality measures focused on behaviors.

    • minjung park says:

      Hi, Sophie. Thank you for sharing your opinion. First of all, I strongly agree that there is some confusion about the definition of narcissism. Like you, before I was involved in the psychology field, I didn’t think too much about the meaning of narcissism. I knew that it was just self-absorption or desire for attention. That was just enough to explain it. However, my thinking way of something gets somewhat complexed after I became more involved in psychology. Especially, after I read the article, I get more complexed about what narcissism is. I also talked about the vulnerable narcissism and the grandiose narcissism in my post. What I thought was, if the researcher experiments with general people who believe themselves as a grandiose narcissism or a vulnerable narcissism, they might draw more exact and interesting results than the simple collection and comparison that the researchers did for the present study.

    • Katherine Chang says:

      Sophie, your comment made me go back and reconsider some things. And also reference google to understand the difference between “overt” and “covert” narcissism. I also learned that narcissism comes from Narcissus falling in love with his reflection and dying in frustration (starvation) because of his rejection of the nymph, Echo. My understanding of narcissism was simply being self-absorbed. I agreed with grandiose features because I didn’t necessarily care to consider other definitions. But in referencing google, I see a potential distinction and can understand the confusion. Overt narcissism is characterized by more of the grandiose features while covert narcissism is characterized by vulnerability and self-esteem because those with covert narcissism lack the confidence typically shown by overt narcissists. So in fact, I think you’re right that there are two distinctive versions of narcissism (by this definition at least). And if this holds true, this confusion and lack of consistency in the field and research is there because they’re trying to explain two differing conditions with an umbrella term, “narcissism”. So maybe the step to take is actually to define/create the different distinctions instead of lumping it and arguing which features define “just the one.”

    • drcb says:

      “Do they typically co-occur or are they distinctive versions of narcissism?”

      It resembles attachment theory, in that one can be fearful-avoidant or dismissing-avoidant. The manifestations are the same, but fearful is driven by fear of rejection.

  3. minjung park says:

    First of all, I was very impressive about the findings of the current study that experts believe grandiose features are highly related to narcissism rather than vulnerability features. Especially, the present study tried to integrate various publications that included clinical psychologists and social psychologists’ opinions about the centrality of various elements associated with narcissism; however, as the authors already acknowledged, it is hard to provide ultimate information, such as how they measured or how they believed about the important context of the current debate. This is because they only did the simple collection and comparison. What I thought about these points was that these findings could not be representative of the exact central features of narcissism.

    Furthermore, for the more interesting results, I think the new study should include some experiments, whatever it is an interview or questionnaire. For example, after the researchers collect general people who consider themselves as a vulnerable narcissist or grandiose narcissist, they are asked to answer open-answers or their experiences. Then, through their unique answers about each question, we might find new elements and traits about narcissism beyond the limited features that the present study suggested. Of course, there might include some biased answer because they already understand and consider themselves as narcissism. However, it might have more various and impressive results that the researchers might miss in the study. Moreover, if we compare and contrast between publications by other researchers and these kinds of open-answer from general people, I think the researchers can complement the limitation they said and help their study to draw a more accurate and interesting result.

    My question is about how the narcissism develops through childhood and whether the narcissism has any cultural difference. Usually, I guess the narcissism is related to how parents treat their children, and both genetic and environmental factors are applied to the causes of narcissism. For example, if parents put their child on a pedestal, then are their children more likely to be “grandiose narcissism?” On the other hands, if parents have too much control over their children or treat their children with indifference, are the children more likely to be “vulnerable narcissism?” Which cultures have more narcissism?

    • Sara Babad says:

      Hi Minjung, I appreciate your comment. I too wanted to see experimental data via interview or questionnaire. There are multiple measures of narcissism and I would think that if they are reliable and valid, they are getting at something resemble the essence of narcissism. Perhaps a PCA factor analysis (like the authors did) of items from these kinds of questionnaires completed by control groups and those with low, medium, and high narcissism would yield more helpful information.

    • Sunghee Kim says:

      Hi, Minjung. Thank you for your thought on the article. I personally thought it was very obvious the fact that experts believed people with narcissism would have higher grandiose features than vulnerability features. And I also agree with your opinion which the findings may not able to provide an accurate representation of narcissism. Also, I just want to add some of my opinions to your discussion question. I think there could be environmental factors play the role of an individual’s trait of narcissism. Let say, there is a child always getting all the loves and always get compliments of others “you are pretty” “you are so cute” etc, the person would more likely have higher self-esteem and you more likely to love yourself more than others. In the other hand, one kid gets no compliments and nobody loves the kid back, then it may cause low self-esteem.

  4. Katherine Chang says:

    This article was interesting in that it addressed the fundamental differences in the conceptualization of a construct between subdisciplines. While the results seemed intuitive (that different sub-disciplines that are trained differently differed), it is important to call out because this is essentially the problems of jingle and jangle! (I’m currently having a similar issue in whether the anterior cingulate cortex is being defined in the same way between humans versus mice—a huge roadblock for translational research). I think science in general has this a language problem when it comes the constructs we study. Cross-discipline research is important as is becoming more prevalent. A strength of this is you have researchers from different backgrounds that can address a subject in a new way that might not have been considered coming from another discipline. However, when you have people from different backgrounds or training, there is a risk of fundamental differences in language and understanding on the subject being studied, which is the argument of this article focusing on narcissism and the different consensuses as given by experts coming from clinical psychology and social/personality psychology.

    Although it wasn’t really surprising, what was interesting to me was that there was a difference between experts on narcissism coming from clinical and social/personality sub-disciplines of psychology. While there was some consensus about narcissistic grandiosity, the groups primarily differ on if narcissism is impaired self-regulation or high self-esteem as well as whether narcissism is healthy adaptation. The thing that caught my attention was the author’s position that the opinions differ as a function of training. This makes the most sense to me because it possible the difference stems from the goals of the different sub-disciplines. Clinical psychology focuses on the person, and possibly in particular, treatment of NPD. Focus of treatment would be to reduce distress and impairment, which could be why clinical psychologists define narcissism with certain features—perhaps they are the ones that can be address in therapy. I cannot speak for social/personality psychologists as I’m being trained under the clinical sub-discipline, but I would imagine this is not the case for that field. Unfortunately, they did not include psychiatrists in their sample (listed as a limitation). I would be very interested in looking a data from experts in narcissism from this field and see if it’s similar at all to clinical psychologists because of the treatment of people. Continuing with this train of thought, I would actually be curious to know in what capacity do the experts from the clinical sub-discipline treat people with NPD and whether this makes a difference. I respect the work from these authors because I think it address a fundamental issue about language and how we define the constructs we research. I would be curious if they were able to go a little deeper to understand what about training per say creates these fundamental differences—is it because there is a fundamental difference in mission?

    • Gregory Rosen says:

      Hi Katherine, I am also curious what it is about training that might create the differences. For example, I wonder if clinicians are taught that self-alienation and fragmentation of self/personality are inherently maladaptive. I can imagine how self/ego dissolution could be embraced as adaptive. What might a society be like if there were no pressure to be true to one’s “core” or “authentic” self, even a dynamic one? In Behavioral Neuroscience class, I learned that mental illness is something that causes distress or impaired functioning. What if a personality characteristic causes distress because of other people’s response to it based on unreasonable societal norms? In other words, what if the society is maladaptive, not the individual? And what if the functioning demanded by society is itself maladaptive? Relying on judgment that an individual’s distress is inappropriate or maladaptive assumes that societal norms equip a clinician with suitable standards. Do you think the DSM has emerged from a society with suitable standards?

      • Katherine Chang says:

        Hi Gregory, really interesting point about society being maladaptive. If I’m understanding you correctly, there was actually an instance of the DSM changing and removing a previous listed disorder (homosexuality) because the distress was coming from society and not the individual.

  5. Gregory Rosen says:

    If the consensus on narcissism is as debatable as Ackerman et al. portray, I am left wondering about the consensus on all the other concepts used to characterize personality. Since I prefer a philosophical psychology viewpoint, I appreciated the authors’ effort to clarify terms. I am reminded of a few ideas from a paper by Klein (2012) called “What is Self?” that was assigned in Social Psychology. First, regarding the self: “While psychology seems determined to put the term self to work in an abundance of subject-predicate (i.e., self-hyphen) relations…the focus of these research endeavors rests firmly on the predicate rather than the subject, to the detriment of a better understanding the self and its causal potencies” (p.363). And second, a more general critique: “Psychology, in its haste to stake out a claim as an independent, empirically-based, science…moved too far from its philosophical roots in Departments of Natural Science/Philosophy” (p.364). While the Ackerman et al. article represents an attempt to move toward clarification, I think it still suffers from the weak points indicated by Klein. Words like self-esteem, self-worth, and self-preoccupation are used without addressing the debate over existence of “self” to begin with. I also found it interesting that a number of characteristics, including Entitlement, Grandiose Fantasies, and Grandiose Presentation of Self-Concept, relied on a consensus reality. Moreover, those are 3 out of the 4 characteristics that the authors found had a moderate-to-strong consensus among experts. I wonder how much clinicians and researchers take intersubjectivity into account when determining the nature of reality. What a great responsibility it is for so-called experts to be charged with judging reality, which in my experience is quite slippery! However, I appreciate that at some point at least a course-grained model needs to be adopted, or we will be lost spinning in philosophical circles, resulting in paralysis-by-analysis. But if this article represents taking one step back to retrace steps, I would like to see the entire staircase reconsidered. There is a very fine line between ploughing forward to create a context to get the discussion ball rolling, and digging ourselves deeper into ambiguity — I’m not sure which one this article is doing.
    Near the end, the authors describe what I consider to be a low bar: “Although we acknowledge that experts’ opinions may not provide any form of ultimate truth regarding the construct and how it is measured, we believe that they provide an important context for current debates” (359). An opinion or theory article might have sufficed as context for further debate, so I’m not convinced it was worthwhile for them to conduct a study with such glaring limitations such as convenience sampling and lack of psychiatrists.
    Finally, I am curious not only about what are the differences in views on narcissism among social/personality and clinical fields, but why those differences exist. The authors write, “At the same time, the current results indicate that being trained in clinical versus social/personality psychology is associated with some differing opinions about narcissism (e.g., the centrality of vulnerable features and the presence of high self-esteem)” (358). What is it about each of these fields that predispose them toward their views? Why would clinicians connect narcissism with impaired self-regulation, while social/personality researchers connect it with high self-esteem and healthy adaptation? Could it involve the law of the instrument (Maslow’s hammer), in that clinicians may be biased to see problems because they are trained in diagnosis?

    • Chen Tiferet-Dweck says:

      Hi Greg, I feel the same way regarding your last point. They did not give any explanation, or suggestion to the differences between social and clinical experts regarding narcissism, and I feel this study should be followed by more studies to elaborate the gap between clinic and academy. The fact that there is such a gap should be alarming for mental health providers and researchers. The gap between research and the clinic should be minimized.

    • Scott Ewing says:

      Great points! I’m sure the discussion regarding clinical emphases vs. social/personality psych emphases will be interesting. But I particularly appreciated you drawing more attention to the ‘slippery’ subjectivity of the experts in evaluating each of the sub-characteristics. This article clearly shows that these people have different conceptualizations of Narcissism; might they also have different conceptualizations of the words ‘Entitlement’, ‘Grandiose Fantasies’, etc? This might complicate the picture exponentially.

  6. Sara Babad says:

    I found this article interesting, but I am also not sure what it adds to the literature. It seems that it just shows that there are differences of opinion in how narcissism in understood, which was their research question and conclusion. To this point, I once attended a conference on personality disorders and encountered a very real division between personality researchers and clinicians. The researchers, some of whom were well known in their fields, presented models and diagrams to explain personality structure. After almost every talk, a clinician would come up to the mic and say something like, “That sounded great but will all due respect, I treat patients with personality disorders and that is not at all how my patients present and behave…” I heard this so many times, at some point it became the running joke at the conference. It became pretty clear to me that the personality models developed by researchers and clinicians who treat patients with narcissism are very different. Perhaps this is a jingle/jangle issue, like Kathy suggests. I also thought this might have something to do with the fact that clinicians who discuss narcissism tend to dealing with the extreme end of it (pathological), which can be very difficult to work with. These clinicians could be biased in their perception of pathological narcissism (countertransference?). I know that some clinicians I have spoken to say that narcissism is not “treatable” and that they cannot work with individuals who are highly narcissistic because there is no hope for “rehabilitation”.

    Also, the article does not differentiate between the trait of narcissism and pathological narcissism that could be classified as a personality disorder. Perhaps certain aspects of narcissism are more apparent at different severities? For example, someone who has a low expression of trait narcissism might show more vulnerability and social assertion but someone with pathologically high narcissism might show markedly decreased empathy and grandiosity.

    I also wonder if even those who work with narcissistic individuals differ in their understanding of the term/disorder/trait based on their clinical orientation. For example, psychodynamic theory conceptualizes personality organization on a spectrum from high (normal functioning) to low (pathological). Along this spectrum, someone with, let’s say borderline personality could have higher or lower personality organization, depending on how severe/maladaptive their behavior is. However, someone who is predominantly narcissistic is, by definition, functioning at a lower level of personality organization. So psychodynamic theory views narcissism that is overtly expressed/clinically relevant as inherently pathological and seriously so. It is not just one feature of the person so much as a core treatment goal or target. Clinicians with this orientation would say narcissism involves low ego-strength (akin to vulnerability), high aggressiveness, low morality, etc…

    However, clinicians with other perspectives (e.g., CBT) who follow the DSM-5 more closely will likely conceptualize narcissism quite differently. I am not very familiar with how this theoretical orientation conceptualizes narcissism, but I would imagine that their explanation might have more to do with maladaptive cognitions, like core beliefs of inferiority and or efficacy. There are also biological perspectives that speak to mirror neurons (empathy) and epigenetic processes. I think that perhaps lack of consensus found in the article has more to do with theoretical orientation and/or personal biases, more so than clinical training area. I also think it might have to do with lack of definition regarding whether narcissism is a trait or a pathology (or both), which I think needs to be answered before defining it more specifically.

    • Crystal Quinn says:

      Hi Sara, I agree that the researchers did not clearly express whether they were researching pathological narcissism or just the level of this trait. I automatically started to think of Narcissistic Personality Disorder in the DSM… but thank you for reminding me of other conceptualizations such as the psychodynamic approach. It is interesting to me that there is such a divide between clinicians and researchers. I guess it is because there is so much variability in how individuals present and, as you mentioned, that clinicians tend to see people who have pathological levels of narcissism. I don’t have much personal experience working with clients higher on this trait, but I anticipate that I may be able to describe clients as having aspects of this personality trait, without having NPD.

  7. Victoria Fairchild says:

    I thought this article brought up some really interesting points regarding the nature of narcissism, both adaptive and maladaptive. The authors discussed that one of the main problems with integrating the literature between research and clinical practice is that the terms used to define narcissism can be too broad, and perhaps do not appropriately convey the more specific symptoms/behaviors that are central to narcissism. With this in mind, I thought that their addition of an open ended question asking the experts to include other descriptors central to narcissism was a good thought, though I’d have liked to have seen some of these specific terms. The authors had said that the offered terms might be best subsumed under categories they had already defined. However, this may be one of the reasons for the aforementioned vagaries currently present in narcissism literature. Experts in the field might tend toward including defining behaviors or symptoms that others find central under umbrella categories of their own, which may lose some of the nuanced differences between two features that are closely related. Perhaps parsing apart the features others find important to narcissism may give the field better ideas of not just narcissism as a whole, but where the line is between normal adaptive narcissism and maladaptive pathology.

    Additionally, I would be curious to know which kind of narcissism the experts were holding in mind when they participated in this study. Interpreting the questionnaires in terms of only maladaptive narcissism like NPD or only narcissism as a feature that may exist in an adaptive form or as a feature of some other pathology may influence what you believe to be a primary feature.

    I think understanding the more vulnerable aspects of narcissism is also an interesting concept, as, much like in schizophrenia, the positive features tend to be considered the hallmark of the pathology. However, we have seen that the negative features tend to be the most resistant to treatment and can cause just as many functional issues. I think it is possible that narcissism may have a similar concern. The vulnerable traits appear to be far more internal, which could be prompting much of the corrective externalizing behavior. Perhaps this may be why there is some disagreement as to the role that extroversion plays in narcissism. It’s possible that extroversion takes on different forms in different people as a performative behavior to combat internal feelings. As the article mentioned, many narcissistic psychological needs are met externally rather than internally. Additionally, because admitting to internal vulnerabilities would be not only uncomfortable but in direct contrast to the image narcissists cultivate, it does not seem strange that researchers know less about it or find it less central. These are internal and therefore mostly unobservable cognitions, so while they may actually be central to narcissism it is unlikely that they would be reported or studied at an accurate level.

    • Dakota Egglefield says:

      Hi Victoria,

      I found your comment about the vulnerable aspects of narcissism being much more internal to be insightful, and think this ties in nicely with Sara’s comment above regarding the potential differences that might be apparent in low versus high trait expression of narcissism. The authors reference the fact that DSM-5 criteria for NPD focuses on grandiosity and callousness (in the alternative/dimensional model of personality disorders), as does the more categorical/traditional criteria for NPD. Perhaps this variation in trait level expression is the specific reason that these aspects of grandiosity and lack of empathy are highlighted in DSM-5. Most likely, if someone is referencing the criteria from the DSM-5, they are doing so to diagnose a patient who is presenting with higher levels of pathological narcissism, or else they probably would not be seeking (or had been referred to) treatment to begin with. I could definitely see how the tendencies associated with high levels of narcissism previously stated would be more external and obvious, thus perhaps serving as the presenting problem. However, upon beginning treatment and getting to understanding a patient on a more intimate level, one would probably see the vulnerabilities that are perhaps more internalized. Perhaps this is why the DSM as well as social/personality psychologists are more quick to judge characteristic aspects of narcissism as focusing around grandiosity, while clinicians have a tendency to at least incorporate aspects of vulnerability as well.

  8. Ariel Zucker says:

    I appreciate this article’s attempt to define and clarify the construct of narcissism. Overall, I found this article to be quite interesting and informative. Specifically, I admire Ackerman et al. (2017)’s attempt to quantify these areas of agreement and disagreement among experts in the field. That being said, one area of confusion I still am grappling with is the distinction between pathological narcissism (i.e., narcissistic personality disorder: NPD) and non-pathological narcissism.

    The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) defines NPD as “a pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy” (APA, 2013). In this class, we have been learning about how most people will fall within the upper and lower bounds of average on personality measures. Extreme scores on personality measures are likely indicative of the presence of a personality disorder. When I think about a personality disorder, I think about a less-flexible and more extreme presence of the personality trait in question. I do not think about a completely separate construct.

    As an example, this article highlights how experts identified “Grandiose Fantasies” and other more subtle features/covert expressions as “central” to narcissism. However, the article also notes that the DSM’s NPD diagnosis primarily highlights overt expressions of narcissism grandisocty and does not do as well as capturing these subtle features/covert expressions of narcissism. If these more subtle features and covert expressions of narcissism are indeed “central” to narcissism, I would argue that we might need to revisit the way we define NPD in the DSM. Specifically, if we think about NPD as a more extreme and less flexible version of the construct of narcissism, shouldn’t we be aligning the NPD diagnosis with the way we think about non-pathological narcissism?

    American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: Author.

    • Ulzhan Yeshengazina says:


      Thank you for your comment. I also found this article interesting and informative. I see why social/personality and clinical professionals may debate about how to narcissism differ from pathology. To your comment about inflexible/extreme scores are indicative of personality disorder – it makes sense if we are measuring only personality traits. This reminded me how Dr. Brumbaugh mentioned in the class, after we took a TIPI test, that scoring within average in personality measures is a good thing. Thus, narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) would lie somewhere around extreme scores on personality measures. Moreover, if we consider that the personality disorder is an outlier in the measure, where do we draw a line and how this may help clinicians distinguish these difference? I also thought about how DSM plays a role in personality inventory measures.

  9. Crystal Quinn says:

    Coincidentally, I was speaking with a friend this week about narcissism. She was telling me about a convicted murderer by the name of Chris Watts, who was recently sentenced to jail in a very public case for murdering his wife and children. With a background in psychology, she and I were both interested and wanted to figure out what made this person commit such heinous criminal acts. She mentioned that forensic psychologists discussed narcissism during the trial, although I’m not sure if he was diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). We spoke about a lack of empathy associated with narcissism, but were missing a lot of other characteristics pointed out by this article, such as grandiose self-concept and sense of entitlement.
    The finding that experts showed weaker consensus in their ratings of vulnerability was not very surprising to me because I tend to think of NPD as specified in the DSM. In the DSM, vulnerability is discussed as an associated feature of NPD, but not required for a diagnosis. The article pointed out that strongly equating narcissism with NPD may not adequately capture the complexities of the construct, so this is definitely important to keep in mind when conceptualizing narcissism. Did anyone else automatically think of NPD as specified in the DSM? I would think that clinical psychologists would perceive vulnerability to be less central because of our reliance of the DSM, so I was surprised that clinical psychologists found vulnerability to be more central than did social/personality psychologists (although marginally so). I agree more with the social/personality psychologists in this case, who believed that those with narcissism have higher self-esteem. Lastly, I do not think that extraversion is a key feature of narcissism, my thought was supported when I saw that there wasn’t consensus over this feature.
    As a last comment, when I was reading through the characteristics potentially relevant to narcissism, I kept thinking back to the honesty-humility scale on the HEXACO model. As I mentioned last time, I think honesty and humility should be separate scales. I could see how aspects of narcissism, such as exhibitionism, would represent level of humility in the HEXACO model. This makes sense because in the reading from last week, we learned that level of honesty-humility can predict antisocial traits (and I think it is really the humility part!).

    • Sergiu Barcaci says:

      Hi Crystal, initially I was also relating this to the DSM’s depiction of NPD until I thought back to the Geukes paper on sports performance as related to narcissism. I’m sure out of those athletes almost none were formally diagnosed with NPD but they still had some facets of narcissism which as you mention correlated to their higher self-esteem. I can somewhat see how extraversion could be related (if you love and think highly of yourself, you’ll put yourself out there more to be the center of attention) but definitely agree that it would more closely relate to humility. This somewhat builds on a point from last week that some traits might be wrongly tacked on to the Big 5 when the HEXACO model would better encompass it.

    • Shanna Razak says:

      I really like your connection to the HEXACO model. My personal definition of Narcissism involves entitlement. In other words, a person who is narcissistic must have every desire of theirs fulfilled. The honesty-humility trait is meant to measure the level of greed one has. With Narcissism comes a sense of greed ( since every want of theirs must be fulfilled). The Honesty-Humility trait would be perfect in measuring certain aspects of Narcissism.

  10. Shanna Razak says:

    Personally, I believe Narcissism involves self-obsession, a deluded view of grandiose and entitlement. In other words, a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder may see themselves as more important than others. Since this is so they may think that every one of their whims or desires should be fulfilled no matter the consequence or efforts it may take to grant them. Reading this article, I was reminded of an episode of Criminal Minds. In this episode, one of the characters were described as Narcissistic, which was further defined as one who places themselves above everyone else.
    Looking at the results portion of the article, Social Psychologists believe that people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder have higher self-esteem. Personally, I disliked the use of the word self -esteem. Self-Esteem is the confidence level one has in themselves and their own abilities. The word Self-Esteem has a positive outlook when it comes to the definition since it is better to have higher self-esteem than to have lower self-esteem. Even though having too much Self-Esteem can be a negative thing the barrier in which the confidence becomes excessive can better be described as pride then self-esteem. Pride is accompanied by a negative outlook which better coincides with Narcissism
    Overall there should be a general definition of the narcissism that should be agreed upon by all camps of Psychology, however, narcissism is a construct. In other words, narcissism cannot be directly measured and can only be assessed through certain behaviors or possible physiological responses (as seen in cognitive psychology). Each camp has different paradigms and will apply them when studying Narcissism. Another topic that may be interesting to look at would the definition of narcissism among the camps from different cultures. Certain camps such as cognitive may have consensus on what Narcissism is despite differences in cultures. However, Social Psychology may have a large amount of disagreement on the definition. Cultures play a huge role in the definition of many topics in Social Psychology. In other words, what may be deemed as Narcissistic in one culture may not be in another culture.

  11. Shira Russell-Giller says:

    Ackerman et al.’s publication of the collection of experts’ opinions on the central attributes of narcissism showed that while there was a general agreement about the centrality of grandiose features in conceptualizing narcissism, there were inconsistent opinions regarding most of the other features that are used to capture narcissism. The authors also differentiated the opinions of clinical versus social/personality psychologists. Specifically, they found a significantly higher consensus among clinical psychologists regarding the centrality of the following attributes of narcissism: Grandiose Fantasies, Empathy Deficits and Overly Ambitious Goals and Ideals. My immediate thought about this finding was that clinical psychologists, who are trained to diagnose psychiatrist disorders using the DSM-V, must naturally be influenced by the descriptions and criteria of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) in the DSM and therefore have higher consensus on narcissistic attributes that are mentioned in the DSM-V. In contrast, social/personality psychologists don’t use the DSM-V as a strong reference or guide in their research work. Indeed, according to the DSM-V description of NPD, grandiosity, lack of empathy, and unrealistic goal setting are front and center. Also mirroring the Attention Seeking attribute in the DSM-V, the authors mentioned that Exhibitionism was rated high across clinical and social/personality psychologists.
    The fact that there was no consensus about whether high self-esteem is a central attribute in narcissism in aligned with my theory that the clinical psychologists were heavily influenced by the DSM-V. The DSM-V mentions self-esteem in the context of Identity (a measure of personality functioning) and Intimacy (a measure of interpersonal functioning). Regarding Identity in NPD, there is “excessive reference to others for self-definition and self-esteem regulation; exaggerated self-appraisal may be inflated or deflated…emotional regulation mirrors fluctuations in self-esteem.” Regarding Intimacy in NPD, “relationships are largely superficial and exist to serve self-esteem regulation.” According to the DSM-V, self-esteem can be inflated or deflated in NPD, and people with NPD use others as a means to regulate their own self-esteem. If clinical psychologists understand the relationship between self-esteem and narcissism within this framework, it is clear why there was not a consensus regarding high self-esteem as a central attribute to narcissism. (Actually, there was slightly more consensus among social/personality psychologists regarding high self-esteem as a central attribute of narcissism.)

    • Victoria Fairchild says:

      Shira, thank you for your comment! I appreciate your discussing that clinical psychologists will be influenced primarily by their diagnostic tools and define terms in that light. I think understanding that while narcissists may be grandiose, they actually have fluctuating self esteem is important to truly understanding those who are high in narcissism. We tend to understand them as believing that they are infallible, however despite their external behavior they can have low self esteem. I wonder if those with NPD who have low self esteem differ greatly from those with high self esteem, especially because it might be that those with low self esteem engage in narcissistic behavior as a way to over correct those internal feelings, and use it as a form of self protection.

  12. Scott Ewing says:

    This article was great. The research design was very simple and the authors didn’t offer much toward resolving the issue, but it did a great job of highlighting some important problems regarding the language we use in our field. This ties in well with some of the issues raised in the Cuperman article we read in the beginning of the semester, which drew our attention to the fact that different people have different definitions of the word ‘extroversion’. The fact that experts in the various domains of psychology may have different conceptualizations of narcissism has important implications for the research, assessment, and treatment of narcissistic individuals. These discrepancies in our concept of narcissism could have serious repercussions in our work.

    I wonder if one of the reasons for these discrepancies has to do with the specific involvement that each of these experts has with narcissistic individuals. For example, I imagine the experts in social and personality psychology are primarily researchers, and they regarded narcissism from a very exclusive lens: one that observes the effects that narcissism has on behavior in social contexts. More of an outcome variable. Clinical psychologists may be more inclined to endorse the ‘softer side’ of narcissism as a central component (vacillating self-esteem, sensitivity, etc.) because they are tasked with trying to understand the narcissist on a deeper level. It is my understanding that often, grandiose behaviors stem from a deep-set insecurity that may not be visible in a narcissist outside of a clinical setting. It makes sense to me that the clinical psychologists were more likely to endorse vulnerability as a component of narcissism; and, the variability in agreement on this among clinical psychologist may be due to varying levels of emphasis among the psychologists on research vs. practice.

    I had a patient last year who, from a psychodynamic theoretical standpoint, could be classified as a “thin-skinned narcissist”. In many ways he met the standard expectations of a narcissist in that he was extremely self-focused, had little insight into the cognitions and emotional state of others, and often presented himself as superior when it came to certain intellectual abilities. However, 80% of the time he was extremely self-critical, and his behavior and presence in the room with me could in no way be labeled as “grandiose”. His narcissistic tendencies were having a huge impact on his sense of self-worth and his relationships, but I highly doubt that he would have a ranked very highly on a standard inventory scale of NPD traits. I agree with the authors, this issue merits further attention.

    • Shira Russell-Giller says:

      Scott, I really appreciated you sharing your experience with your narcissistic patient to highlight your point that clinical psychologists may be more inclined to view narcissism through a “softer” lens (i.e. involving attributes such as vulnerability, low self-worth, etc.). I agree with your perspective – clinical psychologists definitely get to experience the nuanced emotional and cognitive levels involved in narcissism. Often, grandiose tendencies are really defense mechanisms used to protect the feelings underneath of low self-worth and insecurity. I think that in order to reach a more comprehensive and integrative definition of narcissism, social/personality psychologists may benefit from incorporating the more subtle, underlying attributes of narcissism in their research.

  13. Chen Tiferet-Dweck says:

    I enjoyed reading this study mainly because I understood the whole statistical analysis I have much appreciation for psychometrics course.

    One of my concern regarding this study was that the experts’ recruitment was done by searching the authors of academically published papers. That is, all experts were somewhat academy oriented. Their view of narcissism is biased in comparing it to the view of clinical experts that are not academy oriented. My point is that their definition of experts is specific to a certain niche. That is, academic professionals, holding Phd or MD degree, with clinical experience (clinical psychology group) or without clinical experience (social/personality group). However, there are clinical experts that have years of experience working with patients with a variety of personality issues, including Narcissism, which are not publishing their work in the academical journals. They might have a different approach to personality dimensions, and they might be even more experience than the experts recruited for this study. These clinicians devote 100% of their time working with patients. Wheres, academic clinical psychologists divide their time between the clinical work and research. That being said, both social/personality experts and clinical-academical experts use the same academic terms and evaluating them is easier then if we were using experts from nonacademic fields. As the article suggests there is some consensus between clinical psychology experts (with clinical field experience) and social personality experts (who have no clinical field experience), and there is some disagreement regarding Narcssissn between the groups. I would recommend adding a third group of clinical experts with no orientation to the academy. This way we can test more accurately the differences between the perception of narcissism in the eyes of the academic research field relative to the view of the non-academic clinical field.

    Another concern, which is related to my comment before is regarding the fact that all experts had PhD or MD degrees in the social or clinical field. That is, they set a minimum degree for the experts to be concidered experts but they did not control for years of experience or at least describe their statistics within each group.

    Laslty, since there was no consensus between experts regarding the contribution of the FFM in describing narcissism should narcissism be the 6th dimension of personality? Narcissism usually painted as a pathological personality characteristic. However, the definitions of Narcissism using the the literature and in this paper like Self-Worth Vacillations, Dependency on External Sources of Admiration, Hyper-Vigilance are very much characterized people type that is in very high positions such as CEO’s, presidents etc. Also, highly famous persons such as performances, actors, directors, artists, we know today, we probably can rank them high on Narcissism. I believe these people made it to where they are due to their narcissistic personality characters.

    • Bengi says:

      Thank you for your comment, Chen. I was also thinking about possible bias associated with looking at academically published papers, even though I missed if they stated that all of these experts were originally academically oriented. It makes sense that they are, though, since this research ends up in publication. You make a very thoughtful point on experts who are actually operating completely outside the academia and that they don’t necessarily use the same vocabulary that is still shared by clinical psychologists vs. social/personality researchers/psychologists. But my question that still remains is regarding the kind of education that people who are working outside the academia previously had -because psychology’s every field is very academic and there are certain educational stages that one needs to complete to even practice completely outside the academia. In this case, can we still talk about a third group, or is it somehow absorbed by one of these groups?

      • Chen Tiferet-Dweck says:

        Hi Bengi,
        Thank you for your comment. Regarding your question, I still think we can still talk about a third group from two reasons: first, not all clinical psychologists in the US who provide therapy have Ph.D. degree, some completed MA only. In addition, clinical psychology programs vary between schools and each program is oriented differently. Approach and therapy technics that are emphasized in each program are different and the targeted clinical population is different as well. Second, there are alternative therapy professions, or other mental health providers like social workers, that might have a different insight for personality issues.

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