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The purpose of Park and Colvin’s study is to examine the disparity between narcissists’ inflated self-perception and other-perception by their close friends who are not likely to be subjected to superficial influence of narcissists’ appearance, thereby providing more objective views on the former’s character and behavioural tendencies (Back, Schmukle, & Egloff, 2010; Park & Colvin, 2014). There has been inconsistency in findings obtained from past studies which utilised different methodologies in examining the discrepancy between self- and other-perception and by recruiting strangers unrelated to participants (Carlson, Vazire, & Oltmanns, 2011). Studies have also shown that narcissistic individuals tend to give others the overly positive impression of their personality during first encounters, but that over time, such effect dwindled and their friends became more acquainted with their negative qualities (Carlson, Vazire, & Oltmanns, 2011; Paulhus, 1998). Park and Colvin tested the hypothesis that participants who scored high on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory will rate themselves as more optimally adjusted with scores that aligned more with the prototypical aggregation than their friends’ ratings. Secondly, narcissism will positively correlate with agency, but not with communion.
The study requested participants to complete the NPI (Narcissistic Personality Inventory) and 100-item CAQ. Friends of participants gave CAQ ratings of the latter’s personality. The key variables used in the calculation of correlation coefficients and means were the participants’ averaged self-ratings on the NPI grouped into subscales and descriptions of their personality on the CAQ; friends’ ratings on each of the CAQ items; items on the CAQ designated as agency and communion measures; and optimal adjustment scores which were compared between the preceding variables. The “optimally adjusted individual prototype” were developed based on clinicians’ aggregated ratings of sorted CAQ items. Results showed that participants’ NPI scores were positively correlated with self-rated CAQ items that described the optimum adjustment but negatively correlated with items that represented maladjustment. In contrast, friends’ ratings of CAQ items that were significantly positively correlated with participants’ NPI scores tended to be those of low adjustment ratings. In terms of agency and communion items on the CAQ, there were significant positive correlations between self and friends’ ratings with agency being strongly related to NPI and four subscale scores. However, the obscure connection between narcissism and communion was partially supportive of the study’s hypothesis. As predicted, participants rated themselves higher on CAQ optimum adjustment items, but lower on maladjustment items than their friends did. Further analysis indicated that narcissism influenced participants’ tendency to rate themselves as more optimally adjusted and descriptive of themselves based on CAQ item measures.
The above finding lets us understand that a narcissistic personality can be better predicted by individuals other than the self and that it is possible for close friends to have more accurate insight and judgement of our positive and negative traits. This research fits into the dispositional domain by measuring participants’ scores on narcissism, one of the dark tetrad personalities at the subclinical level, as well as a range of personality characteristics described by the CAQ items (Paulhus, 2014). The comparison and contrast between self and friends’ ratings on participants’ personality and their significant correlations with narcissism, which in turn positively relates to agency, help us understand that self-concept has a strong influence on an individual’s personality and his interaction and relationship with others. This observation is useful for analysing approaches to self that falls under the cognitive-experiential domain of knowledge (Larsen & Buss, 2014). This research is related to the third goal of personality research in that it implies the stability of one’s narcissism over time by taking into account the ratings of participants’ friends who have known them for a period of time. From the responses to personality items and statements, we can better predict narcissistic individuals’ future behaviour and action that is representative of and attest to their distinct personality attributes (Rogers, 2015).
Based on the results of this research, I would like to ask the authors about the subjective reaction of the participants after they have learned of their NPI scores and their significant correlations with ratings on the CAQ. Would being explicitly aware of one’s narcissism motivate them to change their self-concept to achieve a more likable personality when it became known to them that narcissism is part of the dark tetrad (Paulhus, 2014). How will they come to terms with and appreciate this negative side of their personality? Is it possible to be less narcissistic should one invest conscious effort and strong will to change or is one doomed to a completely irreversible fate?
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