Description: A number of clinicians have reported that narcissists show grandiosity in self-concept, and rage after receiving disconfirming feedback. This is the first empirical study to test these claims. Subjects with differing levels of narcissism and self-esteem were compared on distortion in self-perception and emotional reaction to negative feedback. Ninety-six college students predicted their levels of intelligence, attractiveness, and interpersonal understanding (empathy) as compared to their peers. Objective measures of these characteristics were obtained, and subjects' predictions, with their actual scores held constant, provided measures of reality distortion in selfperception. Subjects were given feedback comparing their predictions to objective measures at the end of the experiment, and reaction to feedback was assessed by comparing subjects' pre- and post-feedback scores on the Multiple Affect Adjective Checklist-Revised (Zuckerman & Lubin, 1985). Narcissists were expected to react to negative feedback with greater hostility than nonnarcissists. Narcissists evidenced significant distortion in perceptions of their own intelligence, attractiveness, and interpersonal understanding. This finding provided empirical evidence supporting the clinical phenomenon of grandiosity. Narcissists did not react with greater hostility after negative feedback, but as compared to nonnarcissists, they did react with less depression following negative feedback. This supported Kernberg's (1980) assertion that narcissists do not react to loss with depression. In contrast to the inflated self-image associated with narcissism, self-esteem was associated with a comparatively accurate view of self.
Date: August 1990
Creator: Gabriel, Marsha T. (Marsha Thompson)