People are at their most narcissistic when they are college-age, new research shows.
Then, people’s narcissism slowly reduces over the years, on average.
Professor Brent Roberts, who led the research, said:
“The average college student scores 15 to 16 on the NPI scale, out of a possible 40.
The average grandparent scores about 12.
Based on that, if you use that as a natural metric, most people are not narcissists.
And, perhaps most interestingly, narcissism declines with age.”
The study found no evidence that there is a ‘narcissism epidemic’ among young people.
In fact, young people are slightly less narcissistic than they were twenty years ago.
Professor Roberts thinks this is just older people misremembering how brash they were at that age, and how they have calmed down over the years:
“We have faulty memories, so we don’t remember that we were rather self-centered when we were that age.”
Both mellennials and younger generations are frequently portrayed as having poor character traits or of being extreme narcissist.
However, Professor Roberts said:
“But that’s just wrong.
The kids are all right.
There never was a narcissism epidemic, despite what has been claimed.”
The conclusions come from a new survey of 1,166 students compared with tens of thousands of students surveyed in the 2000s and in the 2010s.
They all completed the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, the NPI.
This involves choosing between 40 pairs of statements.
For example, here is one:
- I just want to be reasonably happy.
- I want to amount to something in the eyes of the world.
The second is more consistent with a narcissistic view of the the self.
The study found that whether male or female, White, African-American or Caucasian, people’s narcissism shows a slow but steady decline with age.
Professor Roberts said:
“For the most part, the measure worked pretty well, but we found a few items that didn’t work consistently across different groups.
When you adjust for that, you see decreases in narcissism from the 1990s to the 2000s to the 2010s.”
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 Psychological Science (Wetzelet al., 2017).