Modern Western society increases narcissism, new research finds.
It could help to explain why — as some people think — people are getting more narcissistic.
Narcissism refers to excessive levels of superiority, self-love and self-centredness.
The study compared people born and brought up in East and West Germany.
Higher levels of narcissism were found in people who grew up in the western states of Germany.
Professor Stefan Röpke, who led the study, said:
“Contemporary western societies promote narcissism.
People who grew up on the western side of the former East-West border or West-Berlin had higher levels of narcissism than those who spent their childhood in the former German Democratic Republic.
In our study, this was shown to primarily apply to ‘grandiose narcissism’, a type of narcissism that is characterized by an exaggerated sense of superiority.”
The study’s conclusions came from a survey of over 1,000 people born in both the Federal Republic of Germany and the former German Democratic Republic.
The largest differences in narcissism between east and west were seen for those aged 6-18 at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
For self-esteem, the researchers found the opposite: people who grew up in eastern states had higher self-esteem
Dr Aline Vater, the study’s first author, said:
“No difference can be found within the younger generation — people who had either not been born at the time of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, or had not yet reached school-age, and who therefore grew up within the same western society.
In this group, the levels of narcissism and self-esteem recorded are the same for respondents from both the former East and West Germany.”
Professor Röpke concluded:
“Overall, our results suggest that levels of narcissism and self-esteem are influenced by societal factors.
Western societies appear to promote increased levels of narcissism among their citizens.”
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 PLOS ONE (Vater et al., 2018).