It's almost a cliché for people to talk about how we've all become narcissists, because social media has turned us into selfie-obsessed image-crafters. This is particularly assumed to be the case for the 'me, me, me' generation: millennials. But are we more narcissistic today, or is this just the age-old scepticism about ‘kids these days' built on stereotypes and misplaced nostalgia?
What is narcissism and is it inherently bad? In May 2021, Ohio State University academics Sophie Kjærvik and Prof Brad Bushman published a review of 437 studies on narcissism, which together included 123,043 participants. In it, they defined narcissism as “entitled self-importance”, explaining that “people with high levels of narcissism think they're special people who deserve special treatment. They have an exaggerated and inflated sense of their own importance”.
In 2014, Bushman cocreated a scale that was surprisingly good at identifying narcissists. It consisted exclusively of a response to the question, To what extent do you agree with this statement: I am a narcissist'. It turns out that lots of narcissists know they're narcissists and some are even quite proud of it.
Since then, Bushman has changed how he talks about narcissism. Something the researchers stress in the 2021 article is that they didn't call anyone a narcissist and instead said that people were either 'high' or 'low' on narcissism.
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