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Description: Unless you have been asleep for the past 2 to 3 years you could not have missed the serious bump in interest in narcissism and the related dark triad or tetrad of personality. Certainly the implications of narcissism for social functioning and for occupying and acquitting the duties of  …. well …  senior public office are being bandied about at many levels (few of which involve research or references to research). The reach discussed in the article linked n below takes a new look at narcissism and starts with a distinction between clinical narcissism (narcissistic personality disorder) and something called “sub-clinical” narcissism. No, I haven’t heard of it either. So, get your head around this thought. Sub-clinical narcissism when associated with mental toughness leads to higher levels of academic success so maybe we need to consider removing narcissism from the dark triad (and leaving Machiavellianism psychopathology and maybe sadism, out here is the evil cold by themselves. How does that sound? Well, withhold judgment for a couple of minutes and read the article.

Source: Narcissism May Have Some Previously Unrecognized Upsides, Christopher Bergland, The Athlete’s Way, Psychology Today.

Date: November 14, 2018

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So, what do you think? Do we go ahead and start changing the names on the door of the offices of the Dark Side? And would doing so change your views of current world politics? (not mine!!).   I think rather than answering that question yes or no it would be better to think about what else we might want to know before deicing. For example, I am still very unclear as to just what non-clinical narcissism IS. Does it sound to you like that slightly delusional sense of optimism non-depressed people have? Is mental toughness a part of SN? Or just an occasional correlate? And does SN shade back into high self-efficacy or esteem at some point? How about it shading back to a simple thing like self-interest which virtually everyone DOES have and which is not as icky to ascribe to all as narcissism. Ah, isn’t personality psychology fun?? What IS useful, in all of this mucking about, is the implication that we would perhaps benefit from looking at both the adaptive value associated with ALL personality traits/dimensions AND looking at how those dimensions stretch from the fat middle of the normal distribution of personality out to the dark and scary fringes of personality disorders.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is sub-clinical narcissism and how does it relate to plain old narcissism or to narcissistic personality disorder?
  2. If there is a point where narcissism ‘gets normal’ or becomes adaptive should we still call it narcissism?
  3. Does narcissism get to stay with its dark triad buddies or must it forge out on its own in the land of ‘normalcy’?


References (Read Further):

Malkin, C. (2015). Rethinking narcissism: The bad-and surprising good-about feeling special. Harper Collins Publishers.

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.

Green, A. (2002). A dual conception of narcissism: Positive and negative organizations. The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 71(4), 631-649.

Resick, C. J., Whitman, D. S., Weingarden, S. M., & Hiller, N. J. (2009). The bright-side and the dark-side of CEO personality: examining core self-evaluations, narcissism, transformational leadership, and strategic influence. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94(6), 1365.

Grijalva, E., Harms, P. D., Newman, D. A., Gaddis, B. H., & Fraley, R. C. (2015). Narcissism and leadership: A meta‐analytic review of linear and nonlinear relationships. Personnel Psychology, 68(1), 1-47.

Humphreys, J., Zhao, D., Ingram, K., Gladstone, J., & Basham, L. (2010). Situational narcissism and charismatic leadership: A conceptual framework. Journal of Behavioral and Applied Management, 11(2), 118. 

Papageorgiou, K. A., Malanchini, M., Denovan, A., Clough, P. J., Shakeshaft, N., Schofield, K., & Kovas, Y. (2018). Longitudinal associations between narcissism, mental toughness and school achievement. Personality and Individual Differences, 131, 105-110.

Papageorgiou, K. A., Denovan, A., & Dagnall, N. (2019). The positive effect of narcissism on depressive symptoms through mental toughness: Narcissism may be a dark trait but it does help with seeing the world less grey. European Psychiatry, 55, 74-79.