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Here's Why Narcissists Have The Most Friends by Thomas Freeman: a Look at The Relationship Between Narcissism and Popularity

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Popular Media Critique: Popularity and Narcissism

Thomas Freeman’s Maxim article, “Here’s Why Narcissists Have the Most Friends,” claims that “people with narcissistic personalities more quickly amass friends and admirers,” but that people with high emotional intelligence “gain the most popularity overtime.” He goes on to briefly describe a study conducted in Poland in which groups of students took personality tests which would describe their levels of narcissism and emotional intelligence and “voted who they liked best in each group multiple times.” In the article, the people higher in narcissism were said to have been listed as well-liked at the beginning of the study, but the people high in emotional intelligence became the best-liked group members by the end of study, which took place over three months. Freeman then makes two inferences about the study: “a positive is that people will eventually realize who’s capable of being a “best friend for life,” but a negative is that narcissists prove to be incredibly persuasive and can easily assume leadership positions.”

The article is terribly written. Initially, Freeman makes the associative claim that narcissistic people “more quickly” gain admiration from others. This is not worded correctly in reference to the rest of the article; really Freeman is making the claim that narcissists are better-liked than people who are not narcissistic at first, and then as time passes, narcissists make gradually fewer friends. Also, he doesn’t specify who narcissists are compared to in this initial claim. Readers of the article would then make up their own ideas and could assume that the narcissists in this claim were being compared to people who are not narcissistic, or people who are emotionally intelligent. People who have read the Maxim article but not the referenced study would be misled to believe a false claim because the actual claim in the article is not clear or specific enough. Freeman should have been more specific making his claim, and should not have included his personal implications about the study’s findings in reference to leadership positions for the sake of accuracy, since the study does not mention leadership positions as they relate to narcissism.

The empirical research article conducted an observational study on formal study groups at Polish universities. Institutions of higher education in Poland assign students to groups in which they have to take all the same classes. The researchers in the study targeted these groups at the very beginning of the semester, before the group members had met each other, and then a second time after three months. The group members took personality tests measuring their levels of narcissism, emotional intelligence, explicit self-esteem, and implicit self-esteem at the beginning of the study. All the measurements were based on a Likert-scale format, except for implicit self-esteem, which was measured by the size of the participants’ casual handwritten signatures. They were also asked to list the group members they liked the most. The study then examined the interaction between narcissism, emotional intelligence, time, and the number of “edges” sent or received, which refers to the nominations the group members made. The number of received edges was compared between the first and second waves of the study in one two-way interaction.

Like the researchers predicted, narcissism was linked to receiving edges during the first wave (the beginning of the study), but not the second wave (three months later). There was a negative correlation between narcissistic group members receiving edges at the beginning as compared to the end, with the narcissism of the senders and time being controlled. The narcissists did not, however, lose friends; they rather made friends at a slower rate than those who were not narcissistic as time went on. Emotional intelligence was linked with general receiving of nominations as compared to group members with low emotional intelligence, but was not significant with respect to time. Individuals who were high in narcissism and low in emotional intelligence received the most nominations, and second place went to individuals who were high in emotional intelligence and low in narcissism. The people who were low in both narcissism and emotional intelligence received the least nominations. The findings report two associative claims: 1) that narcissism is linked with initial popularity, which wanes over time but does not decrease, and 2) that emotionally intelligent people are overall linked with popularity, but it also increases over time. The report did not find an association between narcissism and emotional intelligence.

These associative claims meet the criteria for validity. The variables were operationally defined well, with popularity being measured as the number of times someone was nominated as someone likable in the group, and narcissism and emotional intelligence being operationally defined as scores on Likert-scale type personality tests. The one discrepancy in the construct validity is the implicit self-esteem, which was measured as the size of the participants’ signatures. The article did not back this up as a reliable measurement of implicit self-esteem. The external validity of the study is questionable. The study generalizes to “people,” which is vague and inaccurate. Polish college students should not be able to generalize to all people because they are biased with respect to age and location. The participants could generalize to a larger population if the study was an experiment and involved random assignment of some treatment. But since this was simply an observational study, some underlying factors could account for the trends in the findings and skew them. The researchers also misuse some language. The word “effects” in the abstract has causal connotations even though the research findings and the report make it clear that they are making an associative claim, not a causal claim. The researchers should have used words such as “link” and “correlation” instead of “effects.”

The study and the Maxim article make more or less the same associative claim, but the Maxim article uses misleading language that shows that the journalist did not fully understand what implications he can make from the study’s findings. He should have separately described the two claims the researchers made instead of combining them into one grandiose statement. The Maxim article generalizes the claim to a dichotomy between narcissistic people and emotionally intelligent people, when he should have drawn a connection between being liked and the qualities of narcissism and emotional intelligence themselves and as they relate to each other. Some participants had both qualities, and some had neither, and all with differing levels; they were not mutually exclusive. In sum, this Maxim article is misleading because the author uses skewed language and includes personal opinions that have no research to back them up.

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Here’s Why Narcissists Have the Most Friends by Thomas Freeman: A Look at the Relationship Between Narcissism and Popularity. (2018, December 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 21, 2023, from
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Here’s Why Narcissists Have the Most Friends by Thomas Freeman: A Look at the Relationship Between Narcissism and Popularity. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 Mar. 2023].
Here’s Why Narcissists Have the Most Friends by Thomas Freeman: A Look at the Relationship Between Narcissism and Popularity [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Dec 11 [cited 2023 Mar 21]. Available from:
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