Narcissism has become an increasingly popular construct in the fields of clinical and organizational psychology during the last 3 decades. A significant milestone in the evolution of the construct was reached when the American Psychiatric Association (1980,pp. 315–316) included the narcissistic personality disorder as a separate entity in its diagnostic nosology and defined the disorder in terms of grandiosity; fantasies of unlimited power, beauty, and success; sensitivity to criticism; and disturbances in interpersonal relationships including exploitativeness and feelings of entitlement. PsycInfo database references to narcissism and to the narcissistic personality then increased from 405 in the 10-year period of 1969–1978, to 1,322 during 1979–1988, and to 1,791 during 1989–1998. Indicative of the wide range of research interests, narcissism has been examined in connection with bodybuilding (Carroll, 1989), corporate culture (Downs, 1997), defective bosses (Carson & Carson, 1998), inadequate parenting (Ramsey, Watson, Biderman, & Reeves, 1996), and ineffective leadership (Sankowsky, 1995).
Concomitant with this growing interest has been a proliferation of nonprojective, paper and pencil measures that purport to operationalize narcissism. By 1996, Rathvon and Holmstrom identified 19 such instruments, yet evidence pertinent to their relative psychometric adequacy has been meager. Self-reported narcissism also has proven to be difficult to define. One theoretical model suggests, for instance, that self-reported narcissism reflects a defensive self-esteem (e.g., Raskin, Novacek, & Hogan, 1991a, 1991b).
Another theoretical approach suggests that these scales actually record two forms of self-dysfunction, one overt and the other covert (Wink, 1991). Overt narcissism is made obvious in tendencies toward grandiosity and exhibitionism. Covert narcissism appears instead as an interpersonal hypersensitivity and vulnerability. A final continuum hypothesis is a proposal that narcissism scales help define a broad psychological continuum related to healthy self-esteem at one pole and maladjusted self-functioning at the other (e.g., Watson, Little, Sawrie, & Biderman, 1992). These contrasting theoretical approaches sometimes suggest different explanations of empirical effects, making research into narcissism an increasingly complicated matter.
In 1988, two of the current authors assessed the construct validity of four measures of narcissism (Mullins & Kopelman, 1988): the Margolis-Thomas Measure of Narcissism (MT; Margolis & Thomas, 1980), the Narcissistic Personality Disorder Scale (NPDS; Ashby, Lee, & Duke, 1979), the Narcissism-Hypersensitivity Subscale of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) Scale 5, Masculinity-Femininity (NHMF; Serkownek, 1975), and the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI; Raskin & Hall, 1979). In the 1988 study, however, they inadvertently omitted one item from the NPDS because of a discrepancy in the original reporting of items by Ashby (1978) and Ashby et al. (1979). They also limited their observations to a sample largely drawn from women students at a Roman Catholic college. Kopelman and Mullins (1992) later reexamined only the MT and found it to be a consistent inverse predictor of personal satisfaction. In light of recent theoretical developments, of limitations of these two previous studies, and of revisions in the NPI (Raskin & Terry, 1988), a replication and an extension of the earlier findings is warranted.
In contrast to this earlier work, in the present research we reexamined the relative construct validity of these four narcissism scales (a) by utilizing the revised 40-item version of the NPI, (b) by correcting the error made in the NPDS, (c) by determining the linkages of all four scales with personal satisfaction, (d) by using a sample of employed adults from all walks of life (neither primarily women, nor primarily students), and (e) by remaining sensitive to the different theoretical perspectives on self-reported narcissism.
Narcissism and Other Constructs
Of course, central to any inquiry concerning construct validity is an examination of the convergent validity of independent measures. In addition, it is important to examine evidence pertinent to substantive and discriminant validity. We hypothesized, therefore, that the four narcissism scales would be highly intercorrelated, that narcissism would be correlated positively with Machiavellianism and need for autonomy, that narcissism would be correlated inversely with four measures of satisfaction, and that there would be no correlation between narcissism and three conceptually unrelated measures-need for achievement, attitudes toward Palestinians, and attitudes toward gun control.
The term Machiavellian is used to describe individuals who are manipulative and exhibit unethical behaviors and attitudes. Such individuals are opportunistic and lack empathy. Narcissists were described by Millon (1981) as having a deficient social conscience in which they are indifferent to the rights of others and possess a careless disregard for personal integrity. They also exhibit interpersonal exploitativeness in which they take others for granted, expect special favors and status, and use others to enhance themselves and indulge their desires. Hence, there appears to be a conceptual overlap between Machiavellianism and narcissism, and indeed correlations between the two have been reported in the past (Biscardi & Schill, 1985; LaVopa, 1981; McHoskey, 1995; Watson, Biderman, & Sawrie, 1994).
The need for autonomy reflects an individual's desire for independence and self-direction. Narcissistic individuals have a manifest sense of self-importance and experience difficulties with interpersonal relationships. They also tend to find the sharing of decision making to be uncongenial and react negatively when others inform them of behavioral expectations or, even worse, attempt to control their behavior. Conceptual and empirical connections between narcissism and an exaggerated sense of autonomy have in fact been developed in previous investigations (Lapan & Patton, 1986; Sawrie, Watson, & Biderman, 1991).
The need for achievement refers to the desire to accomplish something important or to compete with a standard of excellence (McClelland, Atkinson, Clark, & Lowell, 1953). Although narcissistic individuals often give the appearance of being concerned with achievement, they are actually more concerned with the appearance or facade of achievement than with achievement per se. Hence, we expected no correlation between narcissism and need for achievement. In addition, we expected narcissism to be unrelated to two measures of sociopolitical attitudes: attitudes toward Palestinians and attitudes toward gun control. Logical reasons for suggesting otherwise were not readily apparent.
Life, self, job, and family satisfaction were measured separately. Kernberg (1975) noted that narcissistic individuals often have strong feelings of inferiority and are unable to enjoy themselves: “Their emotional life is shallow. They experience little empathy for the feelings of others, they obtain very little enjoyment from life other than from the tributes they receive from others or from their own grandiose fantasies, and they feel restless and bored when external glitter wears off and no new sources feed their self-regard” (p. 17).
Kohut (1971) described narcissists as suffering from frequent depression and a pervasive sense of emptiness. Researchers have suggested that employees with narcissistic tendencies may identify with superiors but ultimately desire to replace them. In making this argument, Diamond and Allcorn (1984) claimed as well that narcissistic employees quickly lose interest in projects, ask others to help them with the details of their work (because their talents could be better used elsewhere), and work diligently to earn the respect and admiration of peers while at the same time viewing them with contempt. In short, the obvious prediction was that valid narcissism scales would correlate inversely with life, self, job, and family satisfaction.
-Soyer, Renate B., Rovenpor, Janet L., Kopelman, Richard E., Mullins, Lynn S., Watson, P.J.; Further Assessment of the Construct Validity of Four Measures of Narcissism: Replication and Extension; Journal of Psychology: May 2001; Vol. 135, Issue 3
Reflection Exercise #2
The preceding section contained information
about an evaluation of narcissism scales. Write three case
study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section in your
How do overt and covert narcissistic tendencies manifest? Record the letter of the correct answer the .