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Old 08-10-2013, 10:19 AM   #1
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Is Narcissism Really That Prevalent?

We've been hearing a lot about that there's an epidemic of narcissism in society. One psychologist who got the ball rolling on that claim, Jean M Twenge, is being criticized by fellow psychologists for basically reading far too much into everything:

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“I think she is vastly misinterpreting or over-interpreting the data, and I think it’s destructive,” said Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a research professor in psychology at Clark University. “She is inviting ridicule for a group of people about which there are already negative stereotypes.”

Critics like Dr. Arnett see a number of problems with Dr. Twenge’s work. They say the test on which much of her research is based, the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, is inherently flawed — better designed to measure feelings of confidence and self-worth than actual narcissism. They also accuse her of focusing too much of her work on students at research universities, who they say are not representative of their generation.

And some critics are even more emphatic: they say the data, if collected and read correctly, simply show no generational difference in narcissism. “We calculated self-esteem scores from 1976 all the way up to 2006,” said Brent Donnellan, a psychologist at Michigan State University, referring to his and colleagues’ 2010 study using data from an annual national survey of high school students called Monitoring the Future, “and we didn’t see much difference at all.”

Dr. Twenge, who defends her work fervently, says the only reason she chose to focus on narcissism in the first place was that she followed the data. “The truth is I just started studying generations and tried to get my hands on as many scales and as much data as possible,” she said, “and that’s the theme that emerged.
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Much of the disagreement between Dr. Twenge and her critics comes down to interpretation. She believes that questions like “I am assertive” and “I like to take responsibility for making decisions” are indicators of narcissism; Dr. Arnett calls them “well within the range of normal personality,” and possibly even “desirable traits.”
I guess I'm a narcissist then!


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It is with this sort of evidence that Dr. Arnett — a passionate defender of the socially networked “iGeneration,” which he says is more thoughtful and civic-minded than its predecessors — raises his loudest opposition. In the March issue of Emerging Adulthood, he used a combination of the Donnellan and Trzesniewski studies and a barrage of cultural statistics to suggest that the dire warnings of a rise in selfishness were baseless.

Crime rates have fallen, he notes, as have incidents of teenage pregnancy and car accidents. “If narcissism is increasing and narcissism leads to selfish behavior,” Dr. Arnett said in a telephone interview, “then you would expect all these things to get worse. But instead they’ve gotten better.”

Dr. Twenge agrees that such statistics might seem to contradict her results. But ultimately she dismisses them. “I know of no study linking narcissism and car accidents,” she said, and “nobody knows why crime goes down.”

Ask Dr. Twenge to defend her conclusions often enough, and you are bound to elicit a reminder. “People think I’m saying all millennials are selfish,” she said. “Of course I’m not saying that. I’m saying here’s on average what the data show. This is a problem that anybody who does research on group differences runs into.”

She will also remind you not to shoot the messenger. “Some people just want to be positive about the future and about young people, and I understand that,” she said. “But that means sometimes they just want to cover their eyes and ears and don’t want to listen to anything negative, and I think that’s misguided.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/06/sc...pagewanted=all

I think people who complain that there is too much narcissism in our society don't really understand what narcissism is. Narcissists have fragile self-esteem and make up for it by projecting an image to others, and going to great lengths making sure everyone sees that image and not the weak ego underneath.

I do agree that the self-esteem movement in our society is silly because it really does not help anyone develop self reliance and confidence. But other than that, I think the belief that young people (30 and younger) are selfish narcissists is absurd. Besides, don't all older generations accuse younger people as being like that?
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Old 08-12-2013, 02:37 PM   #2
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A few years back, my wife mentioned to her doctor that she was training for a marathon. She was use to very intellectual conversations with her doctor. The doctor simply stated that marathons were narcissistic – a comment that was somewhat of a surprise.

Was running a marathon a narcissistic exercise? As we talked about it, we discovered some truth in his statement. Anyone can challenge themselves to a long run. Creating, working towards and achieving goals are a good and healthy thing. But does it need to be done in a public spectacle with awards and entertainment? Was the marathon a personal challenge or something to be worn as a badge of honor for others to see (with a 26.2 decal on the car bumper, for example)?

I would generally agree with Twenge that narcissism is increasing with every generation (nothing unique to Millennials). I am not surprised by the criticism in that part of the narcissisim that exists in all people chafes at the notion that we are narcissistic.

A few months back, I was part of a group briefed on a marketing study. The study broke down the thinking of different generations (X, Y, and Millennial). The results for the millennial generation were consistent with Twenge’s findings. The group hearing the briefing consisted entirely of X and Y generation people. The room was filled with gasps, laughs and shaking heads – all consistently surprised by the selfishness and self-centeredness of the Millennial group. I turned to a colleague and asked – who were the parents of the Millennials? The X & Y generations!

The self-esteem movement could be a thread on its own. For purposes of this thread, it looks like a mechanism to perpetuate narcissism. Creating an artificial bubble of praise around a child, thinking that this helps the child grow and learn, is a recipe for future failure. In the world of sports, I’ve seen parents go to the extreme of getting a coach fired and replaced with a coach they can influence ($$$). This way, the child can win awards, be named captain and believe they are achieving something on their own. When it comes time to face the challenge that is outside the parents control (like a game), the child usually fails. Narcissistic parents creating narcissistic children. They cycle continues…

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I think people who complain that there is too much narcissism in our society don't really understand what narcissism is. Narcissists have fragile self-esteem and make up for it by projecting an image to others, and going to great lengths making sure everyone sees that image and not the weak ego underneath.
I believe you are referring to Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which is less prevalent than general narcissism.
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Old 08-12-2013, 06:54 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by nbcrusader View Post

I would generally agree with Twenge that narcissism is increasing with every generation
What are you basing this on though? How many generations have you observed to come to this conclusion?
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Old 08-12-2013, 07:05 PM   #4
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I feel like 20-somethings have always been narcissists.
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Old 08-12-2013, 07:11 PM   #5
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As a teacher, I have noticed this trend of narcissism becoming more prevalent
among middle school students the past ten years or so.
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Old 08-12-2013, 08:03 PM   #6
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Yes it is more prevalent. Entitlement behaviour has been taught in school and psychologists blame themselves for the "everybody is a winner" attitude to boost self-esteem that they promoted in the past.

Everybody has a certain amount of narcissism because you need to have a little to get out of bed and aim for what the self-image would find desireable but it's the attitude where people demand too much and use cutting remarks and bullying to feel superior to others. You'll often notice it when people like this show up in a room and it seems like they suck the energy out of a room and are intimidating.

The best way to deal with narcissist behaviour is to use as much reasonable logic as possible without getting too frazzled. In personal relationships just stay away from them. According to psychology today a large portion of narcissist personality disorders (extreme narcissism) are born this way so this always existed to some extent. They are also hard for psychologists to treat (because they think they are fabulous and need no help). So don't expect the narcissist in your life to change. Also you need to test at least 5/9 on the test to be considered a narcissist personality disorder. You can have quite a big ego and not be considered a clinical problem.

If you want to know as much as possible (until you get nauseated) then look at the 9/9 Narcissist who's using his experience and studies to inform everyone else:

Sam Vaknin - YouTube

Something that narcissists in school need to know if they really want to be special in reality beyond their self-image when they get jobs:

http://experiencelife.com/wp-content...1/Flourish.pdf

GRIT:

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“Ericsson has argued that the cornerstone of all high expertise is not God-given genius but deliberate practice: the amount of time and energy you spend in deliberate practice. Mozart was Mozart not primarily because he had a unique gift for music but because from toddlerhood, he spent all his time using his gift. World-class chess players are not faster of thought, nor do they have unusually good memories for moves. Rather they have so much experience that they are vastly better at recognizing patterns in chess positions than lesser chess players—and this comes from the sheer amount of their experience. World-class piano soloists log 10,000 hours of solo practice by age twenty, in contrast to 5,000 hours for the next level of pianist, and in contrast to 2,000 hours for merely serious amateur pianists. The prototype of deliberate practice is one of Ericsson’s graduate students, Choa Lu, who holds the Guinness World Record for the amazing number of pi he memorized: 67,890! The advice that follows is straightforward: if you want to become world class at anything, you must spend 60 hours a week on it for ten years. What determines how much time and deliberate practice a child is willing to devote to achievement? Nothing less than her character.”
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Old 08-12-2013, 08:07 PM   #7
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You guys realize that every generation that has ever existed thinks that the generations that follow are more [enter negative quality here], right?
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Old 08-12-2013, 08:11 PM   #8
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"Mozart was Mozart not primarily because he had a unique gift for music but because from toddlerhood, he spent all his time using his gift."

This is bullshit. The guy was a prodigy. You can practice all you want, but you won't get to that level that early unless you're born with the talent
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Old 08-12-2013, 09:15 PM   #9
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I think it's pretty clear that social media facilitates narcissistic behavior. Facebook actively encourages you to broadcast every detail of your life, regardless of how trivial. Plenty of people are happy to take that bait, and in addition to bloat a profile with hundreds of "friends." So perhaps the issue here is that it is now much easier to display narcissistic tendencies to the world than it was in the past, which gives the false impression that this generation is more self-absorbed than previous ones.
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Old 08-12-2013, 09:22 PM   #10
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"Mozart was Mozart not primarily because he had a unique gift for music but because from toddlerhood, he spent all his time using his gift."

This is bullshit. The guy was a prodigy. You can practice all you want, but you won't get to that level that early unless you're born with the talent
They didn't say he had no gifts. Lots of people have gifts but don't use them which is the point. Gifts by themselves aren't enough. If you read the actual book they also show that many who are told they are gifted relax their effort and get lower results which affects their self-image etc. Lots of psychological traps if you base your worth on ego and forget about effort. You don't have to work to the level of world class if you want to live an average life. Nothing wrong with that but many people want the rewards without the work.
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Old 08-12-2013, 09:22 PM   #11
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So perhaps the issue here is that it is now much easier to display narcissistic tendencies to the world than it was in the past, which gives the false impression that this generation is more self-absorbed than previous ones.
I can get behind this.
Same reason people think the younger generation is so stupid
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Old 08-12-2013, 09:32 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by iron yuppie View Post
I think it's pretty clear that social media facilitates narcissistic behavior. Facebook actively encourages you to broadcast every detail of your life, regardless of how trivial. Plenty of people are happy to take that bait, and in addition to bloat a profile with hundreds of "friends." So perhaps the issue here is that it is now much easier to display narcissistic tendencies to the world than it was in the past, which gives the false impression that this generation is more self-absorbed than previous ones.
I agree with this to some extent. However, there is simply too much "noise" now - everyone can broadcast themselves, but who's paying attention? That 15 minutes of fame has been reduced to 15 seconds of attention.

I am more likely to agree with several of the posters above that there is nothing really unique about this latest rendition of narcissism other than the format. Yet - I continuously remind my children that fame is not a virtue.
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Old 08-12-2013, 10:53 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by nbcrusader View Post
A few years back, my wife mentioned to her doctor that she was training for a marathon. She was use to very intellectual conversations with her doctor. The doctor simply stated that marathons were narcissistic – a comment that was somewhat of a surprise.

Was running a marathon a narcissistic exercise? As we talked about it, we discovered some truth in his statement. Anyone can challenge themselves to a long run. Creating, working towards and achieving goals are a good and healthy thing. But does it need to be done in a public spectacle with awards and entertainment? Was the marathon a personal challenge or something to be worn as a badge of honor for others to see (with a 26.2 decal on the car bumper, for example)?
I disagree a lot here. This is a healthy dose of self-esteem and attention seeking. We all look for praise and we would be lying if we said we didn't. To run and complete a marathon is an accomplishment. Who wouldn't scream it to the entire world? And the people who will congratulate you will because you truly deserve it, not because you bullied them into thinking you were awesome over nothing. This form of "narcissism" doesn't harm anyone.
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Old 08-12-2013, 11:01 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by purpleoscar View Post

Everybody has a certain amount of narcissism because you need to have a little to get out of bed and aim for what the self-image would find desireable but it's the attitude where people demand too much and use cutting remarks and bullying to feel superior to others. You'll often notice it when people like this show up in a room and it seems like they suck the energy out of a room and are intimidating.

The best way to deal with narcissist behaviour is to use as much reasonable logic as possible without getting too frazzled. In personal relationships just stay away from them. According to psychology today a large portion of narcissist personality disorders (extreme narcissism) are born this way so this always existed to some extent. They are also hard for psychologists to treat (because they think they are fabulous and need no help). So don't expect the narcissist in your life to change. Also you need to test at least 5/9 on the test to be considered a narcissist personality disorder. You can have quite a big ego and not be considered a clinical problem.
I've known my fair share of genuine narcissists, and you can't just stay away from them, especially if you're related to them. In the workplace, it gets more tricky because egos can run rampant anywhere.

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" So perhaps the issue here is that it is now much easier to display narcissistic tendencies to the world than it was in the past, which gives the false impression that this generation is more self-absorbed than previous ones.
I agree. I think those social media users who display their narcissism more frequently than is considered healthy would be the ones who will be the neighborhood know-it-all, the pain in the ass neighbor bragging and gossiping nonstop. The benefit of social media is that you can also block or ignore those people. In real life, nope!
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Old 08-12-2013, 11:21 PM   #15
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I've known my fair share of genuine narcissists, and you can't just stay away from them, especially if you're related to them. In the workplace, it gets more tricky because egos can run rampant anywhere.
I think I've said it the wrong way. If you don't give them narcissist supply they will reject you and if you can see that will happen then best to avoid them. Mild ego stuff is not what I'm talking about. It's the big stuff like bullying in the workplace. The job is pretty much over when that happens. Use logic against them as much as you can (because sometimes they are right about some things) but when it goes too far the split will happen. There's only so much you can tolerate with stress hormones destroying you.

Good luck! Hopefully you're not working for one right now.
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