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Description: What is a sycophant? Well, colloquially we sometimes use the term “suck up” as in “that person is a suck up” or “that person is really sucking up to the boss”. But what is going on in situations like that psychologically? There are a couple of hints for possible hypotheses in the pictures posted below. Have a look at them and then think a bit about what sorts of circumstances or developmental experiences might give rise to someone being a sycophant or to someone needing to have one or several or hundreds of sycophants around them at all times. Also think a bit about why this is a relatively new phenomenon, at least at the levels we have been seeing examples of it in the news lately. Once you have your thoughts in order read the article linked below and see what several psychological researchers have to say on this topic.

Source: The Psychology of Sycophants, Susan Scutti, Health, CNN.

Date: December 22, 2017

Photo Credit:  and  CNN, Saul Loeb ATP/Getty Image

Links:  Article Link —

So, issues of praise and needing it to the extent that some seem almost addicted to it are part of what is at play here. As well, the dynamics of social media such as Facebook come into play. “Like mine and I will like yours”, “I have more likes that anyone in the world!” And all of this ties to narcissism as well and it all plays out with example after textbook example in media coverage of the political (and especially of the American) political arena. For a statement of concern about where this is at or where it may be going simply look at the title of the last entry in the References (Firther Reading) section below.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is a sycophant?
  2. How does the behavior of sycophants play into the symptom patterns associated with Narcissism (Narcissistic Personality Disorder)?
  3. What are some of the historical and developmental roots of the apparent jump in numbers of sycophants and narcissists in the last 20 to 40 years?

References (Read Further):

Matosic, D., Ntoumanis, N., Boardley, I. D., Sedikides, C., Stewart, B. D., & Chatzisarantis, N. (2017). Narcissism and coach interpersonal style: A self‐determination theory perspective. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 27(2), 254-261.

Sheldon, P., & Bryant, K. (2016). Instagram: Motives for its use and relationship to narcissism and contextual age. Computers in Human Behavior, 58, 89-97.

Wetzel, E., Brown, A., Hill, P. L., Chung, J. M., Robins, R. W., & Roberts, B. W. (2017). The narcissism epidemic is dead; long live the narcissism epidemic. Psychological science, 0956797617724208.

Miller, J. D., Lynam, D. R., & Campbell, W. K. (2016). Measures of narcissism and their relations to DSM-5 pathological traits: A critical reappraisal. Assessment, 23(1), 3-9.

Joiner, T. (2017). Mindlessness: The Corruption of Mindfulness in a Culture of Narcissism. Oxford University Press.

Buser, S., & Cruz, L. (Eds.). (2016). A Clear and Present Danger: narcissism in the era of Donald Trump. Chiron Publications.

One Response to “The Psychologies of Sycophants and Narcissists: Historical Shifts, Developmental Histories and Clear and Present Dangers”

  1. Cathy Keasling

    Shit! I just ran into this “word” and find I am or have been this way and learned it by being the child of narcissists!

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