People who possess narcissistic traits are more likely to be ‘mentally tough’ research by Queen’s University Belfast has found.
According to the School of Psychology at Queen’s University, narcissists hold an unrealistic superior view of themselves, are overconfident, show little empathy for others and have little shame or guilt. And while these may be viewed as negative personality traits by wider society, a study conducted by the university has revealed there are some benefits to narcissism.
The study, which was headed up by Dr Kostas Papageorgiou, director of the InteRRaCt Lab in the School of Psychology at Queen’s, found that grandiose narcissism can increase ‘mental toughness’ which can help to offset symptoms of depression. It also found that people who possess narcissistic traits have lower levels of perceived stress and are therefore less likely to view their life as stressful.
Dr Papageorgiou said:
‘Narcissism is part of the ‘Dark Tetrad’ of personality that also includes Machiavellianism, Psychopathy and Sadism. There are two main dimensions to narcissism – grandiose and vulnerable.
‘Vulnerable narcissists are likely to be more defensive and view the behaviour of others as hostile whereas grandiose narcissists usually have an over-inflated sense of importance and a preoccupation with status and power.
‘Individuals high on the spectrum of dark traits, such as narcissism, engage in risky behaviour, hold an unrealistic superior view of themselves, are overconfident, show little empathy for others, and have little shame or guilt.
‘The results from all the studies that we conducted show that grandiose narcissism correlates with very positive components of mental toughness, such as confidence and goal orientation, protecting against symptoms of depression and perceived stress.’
For the study, which was published in the scientific journals Personality and Individual Differences and European Psychiatry, the team assessed 700 people across three separate projects.
The participants in all three studies were asked to complete self-report questionnaires that measured subclinical narcissism, mental toughness, symptoms of depression and perceived stress.
Dr Papageorgiou said the research is a fresh approach to the study of personality and psychopathology, highlighting that there are some positives to be found in terms of potential societal impact. He said:
‘This research really helps to explain variation in symptoms of depression in society – if a person is more mentally tough they are likely to embrace challenges head-on, rather than viewing them as a hurdle.
‘While of course, not all dimensions of narcissism are good, certain aspects can lead to positive outcomes.
‘This work promotes diversity and inclusiveness of people and ideas by advocating that dark traits, such as narcissism, should not be seen as either good or bad, but as products of evolution and expressions of human nature that may be beneficial or harmful depending on the context.
‘This move forward may help to reduce the marginalisation of individuals that score higher than average on the dark traits. It could also facilitate the development of research-informed suggestions on how best to cultivate some manifestations of these traits, while discouraging others, for the collective good.’
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