Psychology Narcissism
Virgil Zeigler-Hill, Christian Jordan
  • LAST REVIEWED: 02 December 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0113


Narcissism is generally considered to be a pathological form of self-love that is characterized by arrogance, self-absorption, a sense of entitlement, and reactivity to criticism. Interest in narcissism as a personality feature and its clinical variant—narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)—has increased dramatically in recent years. Interest in narcissism and NPD has traditionally been rooted in clinical psychology, social-personality psychology, and psychiatry, but interest has recently spread to other disciplines including evolutionary psychology, industrial-organizational psychology, business leadership, criminology, and political science. Despite this dramatic increase in the attention given to narcissism, there are important issues that need to be addressed by scholars interested in this construct, including the nature of the distinction between the personality construct of narcissism and the clinical manifestation of NPD as well as the existence and nature of different subtypes of narcissism such as those referred to as grandiose narcissism and vulnerable narcissism.

General Overviews

Narcissism is a construct of considerable interest to clinical psychologists, social-personality psychologists, and psychiatrists. The reason for this interest is that narcissism has significant implications for self-evaluations, intrapsychic processes, interpersonal strategies, and psychological adjustment (Morf and Rhodewalt 2001). Despite the considerable interest in narcissism that has developed in recent years, attempts to integrate the various bodies of literature concerning narcissism that have developed within different disciplines have been impeded by inconsistencies in the way that narcissism is defined and assessed (Pincus and Lukowitsky 2010). Clinical psychologists and psychiatrists tend to conceptualize narcissism as a personality disorder that is characterized by arrogant or haughty behaviors, feelings of entitlement, a lack of empathy, and a willingness to exploit other individuals. The form of narcissism studied by clinical psychologists and psychiatrists has clearly pathological elements and is often associated with emotional instability and the tendency to experience negative emotions. In contrast, social-personality psychologists often consider subclinical levels of narcissism that take the form of a normally distributed personality feature. This form of narcissism tends to be more emotionally resilient and extraverted than the form of narcissism that is generally considered by clinical psychologists and psychiatrists. Rhodewalt and Peterson 2009 provides a concise overview of the narcissism literature that is an excellent starting point for those who are unfamiliar with this construct. Campbell and Miller 2011 is an invaluable resource for those who are interested in learning more about research concerning narcissism.

  • Campbell, W. K., and J. D. Miller, eds. 2011. The handbook of narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder: Theoretical approaches, empirical findings, and treatments. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

    This edited volume consists of forty-three concise chapters covering various aspects of narcissism written by leading authorities on their respective topics. This is an important resource for scholars and students interested in empirical research concerning narcissism. It is notable for bringing together scholars from several diverse areas of psychology within a single volume.

  • Morf, C. C., and F. Rhodewalt. 2001. Unraveling the paradoxes of narcissism: A dynamic self-regulatory processing model. Psychological Inquiry 12:177–196.

    DOI: 10.1207/S15327965PLI1204_1

    This article proposes a model for understanding the intrapsychic processes and interpersonal strategies that characterize narcissistic individuals. The dynamic self-regulatory model suggests that many of the behaviors and cognitive processes associated with narcissism can be understood as attempts by narcissistic individuals to regulate their tenuous feelings of self-worth. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Pincus, A. L., and M. R. Lukowitsky. 2010. Pathological narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology 6:421–446.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.121208.131215

    This review article covers the existing literature concerning pathological narcissism and NPD. The article provides readers with an overview of inconsistencies in the conceptualization and assessment of pathological narcissism and NPD that have hindered scientific progress. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Rhodewalt, F., and B. Peterson. 2009. Narcissism. In Handbook of individual differences in social behavior. Edited by M. Leary and R. Hoyle, 547–560. New York: Guilford.

    This handbook chapter provides a concise review of research on narcissism within both social-personality and clinical psychology. It is a good starting point for those with limited knowledge of narcissism, covering classic and contemporary theories of narcissism, issues in its assessment, and a number of ongoing controversies in the narcissism literature.

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