Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

The Motivational Foundations and Behavioral Expressions of Three Narcissistic Styles

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

The Motivational Foundations and Behavioral Expressions of Three Narcissistic Styles

Article excerpt

The motivational and behavioral underpinnings of three narcissistic styles were assessed. Participants completed measures of adaptive, maladaptive, and covert narcissism along with instruments assessing unconscious and conscious motives and patterns of daily behavior Adaptive narcissism was associated with dominance and affiliation motives, maladaptive narcissism was related to high dominance and low affiliation motivation, and covert narcissism was inversely associated with both dominance and affiliation. The notion that maladaptive and covert narcissism are two distinct styles representing different forms of dis-affiliation is discussed.

Keywords: narcissism, motivation, maladaptive, overt, covert.

Theory and research on narcissism (Kernberg,1975; Kohut,1977) has traversed a long, circuitous path. The preponderance of studies on this variable have found that adults high in narcissism are interpersonally dominant, feel a sense of entitlement, and have inflated self worth, while they are, simultaneously, dependent on the approval of others and sensitive to slight. In short, narcissism is characterized by a combination of grandiosity and vulnerability. Wink (1991 ) has distinguished between "overt" and "covert" narcissistic styles, arguing that various measures of narcissism chiefly assess one, or the other, type. For example, the commonly employed Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI; Raskin & Hall, 1979, 1981) taps into overt, more grandiose narcissism, according to Wink. Conversely, instruments such as the Serkownek (1975) and Pepper-Strong (1958) scales, derived from the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), assess covert narcissism. Wink (1991) found that measures of overt and covert narcissism were essentially uncorrelated, and loaded on two different factors.

A second strand of narcissism research has differentiated between adaptive and maladaptive expressions of narcissism. Factor analysis ofthe NPI (Emmons, 1984, 1987) has yielded four factors, three of which have been deemed relatively adaptive (leadership/authority, superiority/arrogance, and self absorption/self admiration) with a fourth factor (exploitiveness/entitlement) relatively maladaptive. The first three factors have been shown to correlate positively with optimism (Hickman, Watson, & Morris, 1996), self esteem (Watson, Hickman, Morris, Milliron, & Whiting, 1995), and negatively with social anxiety (Watson & Biderman, 1993). On the other hand, the exploitiveness/entitlement factor has been associated with pessimism (Hickman et al., 1996), depression, and anxiety (Watson & Biderman, 1993). Moreover, these relationships between NPI factors and outcomes are often magnified when variance associated with the other NPI factors is statistically controlled. Such results suggest that the four factors of the NPI span a continuum from comparatively healthy narcissism to more dysfunctional manifestations of this construct.

Importantly, the aforementioned two lines of research appear to be theoretically and empirically divergent. That is, the overt-covert distinction (Wink, 1991) is not quite equivalent to the adaptive-maladaptive framework (Watson, Grisham, Trotter, & Biderman, 1984). Covert narcissism is expressed as hypersensitivity, introversion, and vulnerability (Wink, 1991). The exploitiveness/entitlement factor, similarly, has been linked to anxiety and depression (Watson & Biderman, 1993) but also to aggression, extraversion, and tough poise (Emmons, 1984). The exploitiveness/entitlement factor, then, seems to share the core anxiety and underlying vulnerability of covert narcissism. In addition, though, high scorers on this factor are more outgoing, bold, and surgent than are covert narcissists. Taken together, this pattern of findings implies that the exploitiveness/entitlement factor is a sort of hybrid, sharing qualities of both overt and covert narcissistic styles.

Additional, more finely-grained portraits of overt narcissism, covert narcissism, and the exploitiveness/entitlement factor would clarify the unique features of each narcissistic style. …

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