People who watch more reality TV tend to have more narcissistic personality traits, new research finds.
Those who watch more news programs, though, tend to have lower scores on a test of narcissism.
Reality shows may simply draw more people who have vain and narcissistic traits.
It could also be that the shows are contributing to people’s narcissism.
Ted Dickinson, a study co-author, said:
“I suspect the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
Some people with narcissistic tendencies are seeking out media characters similar to themselves, whereas others who watch reality TV see narcissism as normalized behavior and begin acting more narcissistic.”
The study included 565 men and women whose personalities and viewing habits were assessed.
Along with reality TV, more narcissistic viewers were more interested in watching:
- Political talk shows.
Watching the news, though, was linked to lower levels of narcissism.
The authors write:
“Interestingly, preference for news was negatively related to narcissism.
One possible explanation for this finding is that individuals who pay attention to the news are also more civically engaged and less individualistic.”
The researchers also found evidence that narcissism is on the increase in college students:
“College students in our sample re-ported levels of trait narcissism similar to those predicted by previous research, supporting previous ﬁndings that trait narcissism in college students continues to increase over time.”
The study’s authors conclude that…
“…the present study suggests that [cognitive psychologist] Daniel Kahneman was right: “the world in our heads is not a precise replication of reality…it is distorted by the prevalence and emotional intensity of the messages to which we are exposed”.
Many of the messages to which we are exposed on the TV today feature rampant self-interest, disregard of others’ well-being, and a focus on the individual above all else, which are all components of narcissism.
Our research suggests that those messages may in turn be cultivating narcissism in society.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture (Lull & Dickinson, 2016).