Narcissists tend to buy products for themselves that make them stand out, research finds.
For example, they were more likely to buy a leather case that could be personally engraved, or a ‘limited edition’ of an electronic gadget.
Exclusivity and individuality is what a narcissist is looking for in a product.
Dr Aiden Gregg, who led the study, explained:
“Narcissists seek to self-enhance.
One way to do so is by buying products for symbolic as well as material reasons — for what they mean as well as what they do.
Our early results show that narcissists’ interest in consumer products, whether bought for themselves or for others, is strongly driven by the power of those products to positively distinguish them.
Narcissists feel better about themselves because they think they have succeeded in individualising or elevating themselves.”
Across three studies people were asked to imagine buying various items.
Time after time the narcissists chose things that were exclusive or that could be personalised.
For example, narcissists showed greater interest in a shirt that could be customised.
The study also looked at the type of gifts that narcissists buy for others.
These also tended to be more exclusive, suggesting they want others around them to be special or different as well.
Dr Russell Seidle, commenting on the study, said:
“As expected, narcissistic consumers demonstrate a preference for scarce products that correspond with their views of themselves as unique individuals.
Interestingly, these same consumers show a lower tendency to critically evaluate the actual characteristics of these goods.
That is, scarcity in and of itself seems to be the main driver of their purchasing behaviour.
These findings help to shed light on the importance of the symbolic value of purchasing decisions, which for these consumers seems to outweigh even the practical usefulness of the product being bought.”
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 Journal of Consumer Psychology (Sedikides et al., 2007).