Narcissism and the Rise of the Selfie

Posted by Hogan Assessments on Wed, Nov 18, 2015

Digital_narcissismAs social media use has grown, digital narcissism has developed. Welcome to the golden age of narcissism, a world of endless ostentation opportunities and unlimited bragging possibilities. Showing-off has never been easier and, ironically, more celebrated.

Whether online or in the workplace, narcissistic individuals are much more likely to portray a desirable, albeit unrealistic, self-image, and broadcast their life to an audience. Can this narcissistic behavior can be reversed? What will the impact be on professional work environments? Our complimentary ebook, Narcissism and the Rise of the Selfie, discusses what fuels this and includes ways for individuals, both personally and professionally, to overcome the behavior. Download it today.

Topics: narcissism

Selfie sticks should be banned for massaging our self-obsession

Posted by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic on Thu, Oct 29, 2015

It is just over 100 years since Sigmund Freud’s polemical claim that narcissism is not only a normal, but also an ubiquitous, personality trait. “Loving oneself,” he argued, is the “libidinal complement to the egoism of the instinct of self-preservation”. In other words, we have evolved as selfish animals because our self-love is part of our adaptive survival toolkit. The survival of the fittest is also the survival of the self-obsessed, and in the age of modern celebrity, who needs science to evaluate Freud’s now not-so-controversial claim?

However, Freud also noted that when narcissism levels are too high, they turn into a liability, hindering our capacity to love or feel empathy for others, and crippling our ability to get along with people. As even radical Darwinians know, who cares if the final motive is to (selfishly) pass on our genes, if we need to (altruistically) cooperate with others to be able to achieve that?

Indeed, even in today’s world of technologically enhanced reproduction, it is still necessary to find a partner when it comes to passing on our genes. Our offspring will enjoy better opportunities if we have a strong social support network, which requires caring for others so they can care for us. Thus, while a little narcissism may be advantageous, too much of it is pathological and dysfunctional. And if this is true and problematic at the individual level, it has much more severe consequences at the collective or group level: a society of self-centred, antisocial people will generally be outperformed by more cooperative, prosocial and altruistic societies. Unlike in the 1980s, everybody – except perhaps Donald Trump voters – knows this now.

This begs the question of whether the advent of recent technologies, such as smartphones and social media, may be enhancing our inherent narcissistic tendencies beyond a healthy level, and to the detriment of wider society. Consider the case of the selfie stick, named by Time magazine as one of the best inventions of 2014, declared a “must-have” holiday gadget by Business Insider, and heavily regulated in South Korea, where the fine for unregistered users can exceed £17,000. There is already a National Selfie Gallery and, as Jerry Saltz noted in a thoughtful New York magazine article last year, “Selfies have changed [our] social interaction, body language, self-awareness, privacy, and humor, altering temporality, irony, and public behavior.”

Unsurprisingly, plenty of ironic guides have been published on how not to die while taking a selfie; these include not being near dangerous animals, in the middle of a natural disaster, or on top of a high-speed train. Yet selfie stick users must surely be reminded that they are living in the physical world. Contrary to what their duckfaces suggest, those around them are living human beings and their existence matters. In fact, they may be the only people in the world who are paying attention to their selfies, and, unlike their virtual fanbase, they do exist beyond the confines of their imagination. In addition, they may benefit from being told that smartphones and selfie sticks confer as much fame as a mirror.

Unsurprisingly, scientific evidence indicates that social media activity is higher in narcissists, and narcissists tend to post more self-referential content, including pictures. Research has found that although women take more selfies than men, selfie activity is indicative of narcissism in men but not women. In another study, men who post selfies were also found to be more exploitative and entitled. This is in line with recent scientific reviews showing that men tend to be more narcissistic than women. In addition, selfies focused on people’s own physical appearance have been linked to vulnerable narcissism, a neurotic or insecure form of narcissism characterised by more fragile self-esteem levels and the constant need to be reassured and liked by others. I recently saw some of my early adopter friends post drone selfies on social media. This seems like the obvious progression in the evolution of the selfie - early adopters tend to be more narcissistic. Perhaps after that we can expect a Google satellite app that enables 24/7 selfies and automatically edits and shares them on Instagram?

Of course, there is no clear sense of the direction of causality in this relationship. Are selfie sticks just appealing to narcissists, or might they actually be enhancing people’s narcissism? We don’t know yet. But most human habits are the product of reciprocal effects between dispositions and environmental experiences, suggesting that narcissistic people may indeed be more vulnerable to the selfie syndrome, and that succumbing to it would in turn make people more narcissistic. Furthermore, absence of evidence does not imply evidence of absence, so there are arguably reasons to be cautious before we endorse or celebrate activities that may harm an entire generation in the long run: this is the argument made by those who equate our digital addictions to the early days of smoking, when people puffed away happily without awareness of the consequences.

In any event, psychological manifestations of auto-eroticism (to use another Freudian term for narcissism) are as distasteful in public as their physical equivalent, so why should any cultured society tolerate the public masturbation of self-image?

This article originally appeared in The Guardian.

Topics: narcissism

Why is your boss such a narcissist?

Posted by Hogan Assessments on Wed, Aug 19, 2015

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is a global authority on psychological profiling, and he joined Paul Henry in studio this morning to explain why narcissists often get the top jobs.

He says there are two kinds of workers: the narcissist who will rise to the top, and the hidden gems who don't brag and just get on with the work – and they're the best people for the job.

Watch a video of the interview.

Topics: narcissism

Faking It

Posted by Natalie O'Neal on Thu, Mar 27, 2014

Hubris or humilityEver heard that phrase “fake it until you make it”? In his latest book, Confidence, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic advises that “when you are competent, fake modesty. When you are not, fake competence. And if you cannot fake competence, then try to fake confidence.” 

While the narcissistic attitude that goes hand in hand with charm and enthusiasm can be a handy asset for promotion, it has its downsides. People with narcissistic tendencies are likely to be impulsive, unrealistic in evaluating their abilities, pigheaded, and entitled, to name a few.

In a recent online trend, humble CEOs are being lauded for their superior leadership styles and healthy organizations. Learn more about the perfect balance of hubris and humility in the workplace.


Topics: narcissism, humility

Hubris v. Humility: Which side do you pick?

Posted by Natalie O'Neal on Tue, Mar 18, 2014

Hubris or HumilityWe’ve talked about the good aspects of being a narcissist, especially when climbing the corporate ladder, but what about humility? When placed side-by-side, the two qualities bring to mind arch nemeses – hubris, the ever-charming yet self-absorbed compatriot, and humility, the soft-spoken, humble negotiator.

While narcissists’ secret power is their compelling charisma which masks their weaknesses, the humble wield an arguably even greater power – the power of modesty.

People with low self-confidence and ambition constantly evaluate their weaknesses and work tirelessly to improve while individuals with narcissistic tendencies tend to listen to positive feedback and ignore the negative.

Jim Collins, a leading authority on management and author of Good to Great, spent more than 30 years investigating why certain organizations are more successful than others. Collins found that companies led by modest managers consistently outperformed their competitors, and tended to be the dominant players in their sectors. He also found that humble leaders tended to stay at their organizations longer than their arrogant counterparts, and that their companies continue to perform well even after they leave because humble leaders often ensure a succession plan before they depart.

Learn more about the secret powers of both narcissistic and humble leaders and judge for yourself which side you’re on in our ebook Hubris or Humility?

Topics: narcissism

Narcissism: A truth universally acknowledged…by all but one

Posted by Natalie O'Neal on Mon, Jan 27, 2014

With a college background in literature, I tend to relate ideas and concepts to narrative forms deriving anywhere from the classics to contemporary rom-coms (I don’t discriminate). So, when I see narcissism trending in the news, I inevitably search my story database for an exaggerated narcissistic character for comparison. And who should pop into my head other than that dastardly fink, Daniel Cleaver from Bridget Jones’s Diary, a contemporary version of Jane Austen’s antagonist, the rakish Mr. Wickham.

It’s rather obvious that what the poor sod lacks in self-awareness, he makes up for in smiles and charm. In fact, he charms his charismatic self right into the heart of his employee, the love-struck Bridget Jones. Though Jones, who makes some missteps and judgment follies of her own, eventually wises up to his masquerade, Cleaver never does. He’s so good at impression management and making others buy into his winning personality, that he dupes even himself. In a recent Harvard Review blog, Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic explains that “such delusions of grandeur allow narcissists to be more effective manipulators than individuals who are politically savvy but inhibited by their inability to distort reality or morality in their favor. It is always easier to fool others when you have already fooled yourself.”

Fortunately, “one of the unique characteristics of narcissistic individuals,” says Chamorro-Premuzic, “is their inability to prolong their seductive powers for too long…Their initial flamboyance, charm and confidence soon morphs into deluded self-admiration, defensive arrogance, and moral disengagement.” Well, that’s spot on for Cleaver. His charismatic and charming illusion fades along with his control of the situation, and his true colors – deceit, questionable morals, and unmitigated arrogance – begin to peek through his carefully manicured exterior.

While narcissism can help individuals get ahead in their career and isn’t necessarily a bad characteristic to embody, Chamorro-Premuzic says that “the critical ingredients for success are competence rather than confidence, altruism rather than egotism, and integrity rather than charisma.” In the end, I almost feel sorry for Daniel Cleaver. While he may bounce back quickly due to his narcissistic never-at-fault attitude, without proper self-awareness, he’ll just keep making the same mistakes over and over and over again.

Topics: Hogan Development Survey, HDS, narcissism, derailer

Australian researcher identifies least narcissistic CEOs in U.S.

Posted by Ryan Daly on Wed, Jan 22, 2014

It is alarmingly easy to come up with a list of narcissistic CEOs – Donald Trump, the late Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg are the first three that pop into my head, as do an endless number of banking and finance industry executives (full disclosure: I just saw the excellent The Wolf of Wall Street, so my feeling here may be a little skewed).

What about coming up with a list of the least narcissistic CEOs? That, it turns out, is a little more difficult. Fortunately, someone did it for me.

Alex Frino, the Dean of Macquarie Graduate School of Management in Sydney, content analyzed quarterly earnings call transcripts for the 100 largest companies in America and calculated the ratio of how frequently CEOs used the pronouns 'I', 'me', or 'mine' versus 'we', 'our', or 'ours'. According to this metric, the three most humble CEOs in America are Pat Gelsinger (CEO of VMware), Gregg Steinhafel (CEO of Target), and Omar Ishrak (CEO of Medtronic).

You can check out a more complete list here.

As the article points out, the link between CEO humility and performance is possible, although uncertain – VMware and others are high performers in their categories, while Target and Medtronic are struggling. And, the story points out, there is a conspicuous absence of leaders from the tech or financial industries – hotbeds of high-performing companies lead by word-class narcissists.

“Many leaders dominating the workforce today possess narcissistic leadership traits, and in this era of constant change and innovation, it seems natural that charismatic, risk takers would take charge,” Frino said. “Is narcissism, generally viewed as a personality defect, actually a good thing? Does the world in fact need more narcissistic CEOs? Or is this a trait we should be actively teaching future leaders to avoid?”

Topics: narcissism

What If Narcissism Wasn't a Bad Thing?

Posted by Hogan News on Wed, May 22, 2013

The Upside of Narcissism in the Workplace


Topics: HDS, narcissism

Everyone Is Special, In Every Way

Posted by Hogan News on Wed, Jan 16, 2013

We are fast becoming a nation of narcissists, at least according to a recent study by psychologists Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell. In their book “Living in the Age of Entitlement,” the two present findings from a survey of more than 37,000 college students showing that narcissistic personality traits rose as fast as obesity from the 1980s to the present.


The driving force behind narcissistic behavior is an individual’s belief that he or she is unique or exceptional in some way. 

The origins of this attitude can often be traced to adult caretakers providing a child continuous positive feedback without the boundaries and discipline necessary for learning their own and others’ limits.

Sometimes an individual’s history of exclusion, rejection, and/or illness can create a belief in his or her own exceptionality – in other words, the individual is exceptional by the virtue of having experienced challenging circumstances. These individuals’ public self-confidence masks private self-doubt; however, their negative feelings may be so deeply buried that they are inaccessible.

Although some criticize Twenge and Campbell’s study as little more than kids-these-days moralizing, just the thought of an influx of arrogant, self-promoting members of generations Y (Millennials) and Z (Digital Natives) keeps many managers and HR practitioners up at night.

But what if narcissism wasn’t necessarily a bad thing? To find out more, download our ebook The Upside of Narcissism in the Workplace


Topics: Hogan Development Survey, HDS, narcissism, Bold

Dealing with Narcissism in the Workplace

Posted by Hogan News on Thu, Jan 10, 2013

Every office has a resident narcissist – that guy who never seems afraid to toot his own horn. But what if that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing?

Narcissistic individuals believe their own superior talent and typically resist developmental feedback. If personal development is presented as a strategy for advancing their personal agenda, however, narcissistic individuals can be persuaded to:

  • Lower their expectations for special treatment, and try to accept responsibility for their occasional mistakes
  • Recognize that they ignore negative feedback, and seek feedback from family, and friends who are not competitors and whose feedback is usually well-meaning
  • Stop regarding team interactions as opportunities for competition in which only one person can win; remember that they real competition is outside the organization, not within it
  • Realize that subordinates are most likely to be productive when they feel respected; learn how to offer positive feedback to others when they contribute
  • Use their confidence, energy, and determination to motivate rather than intimidate others

It comes down to self-awareness. If you provide your employees with a realistic understanding of their strengths, weaknesses, and behavioral tendencies, they can harness the positive outcomes associated with narcissism and avoid taking it overboard.

To find out more, download our ebook The Upside of Narcissism in the Workplace

Topics: Hogan Development Survey, HDS, narcissism, Bold

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