Study Finds That Narcissism Implies Implicit Attention Seeking Behavior

By Dawn Boykin

Current research examines how narcissism, a personality trait marked by self-promotion, vanity, and grandiosity, relates to how people communicate information about themselves online. Two studies were performed in which the prediction was that narcissism implies implicit attention seeking behavior. Specifically, the researchers predicted that narcissistic people who use relatively few first-person singular pronouns (i.e.;” I” and” me”) would display more self-promoting images of themselves on their Facebook.com profile (study 1) and would use more profane and aggressive words in an online self description task. (study 2) both studies supported this hypothesis.

In study one, 80 undergraduate Facebook.com owners (55 women, 25 men; m= 18.89 (SD= 1.03) participated in exchange for partial course credit. To begin, participants completed the narcissistic personality inventory, and responses were summed to form a composite measure of narcissistic personality. Next, participants log onto Facebook.com and displayed their main profile page on the computer screen, which is displayed to members of the owners’ social network. Linguistic content was taken from the about me section of the participants profile page. In this section, owners of Facebook.com pages describe themselves in a way that they desired to their social network. The linguistic inquiry word count program (LIWC) was then used to analyze the linguistic content of the about me section. The program using internal default dictionary and comprised several word categories according to how much the group words related to a particular topic. The researchers were specifically interested in how often participants used first-person singular pronouns, as frequent use of these programs are associated with narcissistic personality. The narratives contained 4854 words which are spell checked prior to analysis. Five coders, unaware of the owners NPI scores then rated each main photo on characteristics that would draw attention to owners’ page. The photo was rated according to how much the owner self promoted by averaging coders ratings of how self-promoting and vain the photo was and secondly by averaging coders judgment of how sexy, modest (reversed), and clothed (reversed) the main photo was.

As predicted study one offered evidence that narcissistic people drew attention to themselves by displaying a self-promoting and sexy main photo on the Facebook.com profile, but was contingent on how many words, they have used about themselves in an online description. Low levels of first-person singular pronoun was followed by a displaying a photo that was highly self-promoting and sexy. In contrast narcissism did not relate to ratings of their main photo when a large number of first- person singular pronouns were used. As expected, a significant narcissism, first-person singular pronoun interaction emerge.

Because narcissism correlates negatively with age, study two use a large sample of adults instead of an entirely undergraduate sample (689 women, 145 men, 4 did not specify gender; age: M=33.32, SD=11.72) for final analysis. Participants completed the study whenever they were able to access the Internet. Through random assignment, participants were asked to write three brief essays about themselves that were pre-rated as highly negative or highly positive. Linguistic analysis then combine percentages of words related to anger and aggression with swear words. Among participants who use a relatively low amount of first-person singular pronouns, narcissism was associated with greater use of swear words. Similarly when narcissists had already drawn attention by using a high number of first-person singular pronouns, they did not use a higher number of profane and aggressive words in their narratives.

The current findings highlight the interplay between personalities and were used in predicting online communication. The results relate to the researchers central argument. I have witnessed this interaction countless numbers of times in my experience with Facebook.com. My findings are also consistent with in-person interactions with people that I now know to be narcissistic. Online, these narcissists use a number of different routes to boost their self-esteem, and to maintain an overly positive and inflated sense of self, consistent with the current research. The communication pattern is consistent with bragging about accomplishments and in postings, using a lot of first-person pronouns. It then becomes immediately apparent that no one responds, or ”like” these post, there is a subsequent post of a similar statement, basically urging a response and/or a sexy photo to assist in their esteem boosting. Narcissistic profiles almost always have a sexy profile picture from my experience. It is also apparent in the many pictures posted that suggest a wealthy and powerful lifestyle. Material objects, traveling, and money is common in photographs. These postings are also subtitled with first-person brag pronouns as to boost esteeming while gaining attention and recognition from others. Also aggressive and profane language is also prevalent in attention seeking online.

Future direction for this research is the equal study between women and men in undergraduates and a larger sample size to show more representative sample derived from the population. I would also like to see how culture plays into this narcissistic phenomenal. Taking a sample from different people throughout the world would probably show variation.  There is also an interest in determining what the narcissistic person is feeling when they do or do not receive the attention seeking satisfaction. Perhaps a study can be done to figure out how these people were feeling in the midst of interplay when they got their attention and when they did not, or to what extent they were willing to go in order to get the attention. With this information we can better understand how word use can impel or inhibit attention seeking behavior during online communication.

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2 thoughts on “Study Finds That Narcissism Implies Implicit Attention Seeking Behavior

  1. I used this while looking at profiles of narcissists. And I must admit that there is an obvious link. This could be beneficial to people who may begin dating someone. Viewing their profile while considering this could help to limit relationships with narcissistic individuals. Not to discriminate but narcissists are difficult and exhausting.

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    1. Glad that you found the study useful. Understanding social media cues pertaining to narcissistic individuals could certainly aid when considering relationships. Narcissistic trends on social media can tell you a lot about a person. They are directly correlated with personality and other behavioral traits that could be viewed as less desirable.

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