Narcissism: Higher Tendencies among Younger Adults, Men (Study)

An extensive new study with over 250,000 participants revealed that younger adults are more likely to exhibit traits of narcissism while older adults tend to have lesser levels of it, further suggesting that men often display more narcissistic tendencies than women.

Narcissism is a psychological feature defined by an exaggerated sense of one’s self-importance, a strong craving for praise and attention, a lack of empathy for others, and a propensity to take advantage of or manipulate people for one’s benefit. 

People who exhibit narcissistic qualities frequently feel superior to others and deserving of special attention while also ignoring the needs and feelings of others.

Researchers of this study, entitled “Age and gender differences in narcissism: A comprehensive study across eight measures and over 250,000 participants,” sought to investigate how narcissism differs based on gender and age since it has long been believed that younger adults tend to be more narcissistic and self-absorbed than older ones. 

In this regard, study author and postdoctoral researcher at Michigan State University, Rebekka Weidmann, and her colleagues conducted a preliminary study to assess the overlap or correlation degree between different measures of narcissism, seeking to understand how tightly related these measures were within a single sample.

Researchers recruited over five thousand and seven hundred participants, sourced from both a university subject pool and Amazon Mechanical Turk, who completed eight different measures of narcissism, namely the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, the Hypersensitive Narcissism Scale, Dirty Dozen Narcissism, the Psychological Entitlement Scale, Narcissistic Personality Disorder Symptoms from DSM-IV (DSM-IV NPD), the Narcissistic Admiration and Rivalry Questionnaire-Short Form (NARQ-S), the Single Item Narcissism Scale, and the brief version of the Pathological Narcissism Inventory.

In the second study, Weidmann and her colleagues examined whether younger adults exhibited higher levels of narcissism compared to older adults, exploring whether such age differences were persistent across several subscales within each narcissism inventory.

The data for this study was collected from a group of independent researchers who supplied 42 separate data sets, which represented over 270,000 distinct people from different sources, including internet surveys, panel studies, student subject pools, and community/clinical samples.

The study’s researchers revealed that narcissism usually declined with age, with younger adults showing higher levels of narcissism compared to older ones, and men displaying higher signs of narcissism compared to women.

However, the study also underlined that the magnitude of these age and gender effects was small, and while consistent, the ability to explain variance in narcissism was limited, noting that the impact of age and gender on narcissism varied, which confirms that different facets of narcissism might be sensitive to different developmental mechanisms.

Speaking to psychology and neuroscience website PsyPost,  Researcher Weidmann explained that “it was interesting to find such consistency in the age and gender effects, even though some of the narcissism measures did not overlap (or correlate) as much as we would expect,” adding that this study “opened a lot of new questions about how we measure narcissism and what drives these age and gender effects.”

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