October 29, 2008

Narcissism Up In College Students; The Goal Is To Keep Them In Puberty, Part 3

Hold on-- not in all college students, and not all in college students, and not in all college students in all times...

From the Journal of Personality, Egos Inflating Over Time: A cross-temporal meta-analysis of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory-- which the blogger from fashion-incubator sent to me a year ago, before it was even published:

Meta-analysis of studies in which college kids over the decades were given the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, it found that narcissism is on the rise.



narcissism college.gif



The authors offer a helpful analogy: if the average student in the 1980s scored in the 50th percentile for narcissism, then the average 2006 college student scored in the 65th percentile-- 2/3 of 2006 college kids are above the 1980 mean for narcissism.

Some interesting findings:

the college students scored the same level of narcissism as a study of 200 celebrities.  (more on that later.)

Women's scores rose more rapidly than men's.  In 1992 the SD between men and women was 0.45 (men higher); in 2006 it was 0.15.


II. 

But not everyone agrees.
 
Another group, disbelieving the above study (apparently, even before it had been published), investigates their own 25000+ gigantic sample of UC Davis and UC Berkeley students and found that scores on the NPI, and their own measures of narcissism, were relatively stable.   I should mention here that the NPI measures more of the extroverted, "self-enhancing" kind of narcissism, because that's important for understanding why this result is probably wrong:  40% of UC students are Asian, vs. 6% in the rest of American colleges.  I hope this doesn't require any explanation. 


III.

What do Twenge et al say is the consequence of all this narcissism? 

  • "A trend among college students toward "hooking up" rather than...relationships;"
  • 81% of students thought " getting rich was among their generations most important goals" (rich is the new porn);
  • 51% said it was getting famous.

They have more trouble explaining the other... associations: crime is down; volunteerism is up.  But to me, these are hardly inconsistent with narcissism.  Narcissism doesn't mean you're bad, just that you think you're the main character in your own movie.  Maybe that movie is about a woman who works for a non-profit but manages to date the President.

But the authors can't explain why narcissism is on the rise, and they point to the usual suspects:

  • Schools and media: "Children in some preschools sing a song with the lyrics, "I am special/I am special/Look at me ...", and many television shows for children emphasize positive self-feelings and specialness."
  • Grade inflation: "In 1980, only 27% of college freshmen reported earning an A average in high school, but by 2004 almost half (48%) [did.] However, the amount of studying has actually declined, as has performance on tests like the SAT. "
  • Technology: "Devices such as iPods and Tivo allow people to listen to music and watch television in their own individual ways, and websites such as MySpace and YouTube (whose slogan is "Broadcast yourself") permit self-promotion far beyond that allowed by traditional media. These trends motivated Time magazine to declare that the 2006 Person of the Year was "You," complete with a mirror on the cover."
But all that's just the consequence, not the cause.

Look at the above chart, and note the upswing after 1990.  I don't know what caused those kids to be more narcissistic than the 80s kids, but I do know what happened to those 90s kids after college: they became adults.  And they became the custodians of the world, and, they demanded entertainment that suited them.  Music, movies, internet, technology-- all that was aimed at them, not the next group of college kids.  Unfortunately for the next college kids, there was nothing else to watch.  The 30 year old in 2000 wanted to watch Survivor and The Bachelor, so everyone had to watch Survivor and The Bachelor, and it's changed cognition: even kids who have never watched those shows still uses the phrase "voted off" and "immunity." 

And the 35 year old in 2005 became a parent, and that parent wanted school vouchers and great healthcare, but also lower taxes and to be able to eat out at restaurants once a week.  ('The kids are with my mother.")  Those parents want easy credit and a bigger house. 

This trend is going to continue, frankly, until we either have a major recession, war, or my generation dies.

It's funny to me, and by funny I mean I dropped all my cyanide capsules, that Allan Bloom and all the other conservative culture war guys from the 80s never bothered to follow up on the kids they thought were such idiots, such-- narcissists.  Did they expect they would all die, sucked into their own skulls by the gravity as their brains went brown dwarf? Yet here they are, walking around like zombies, apathetically, pathetically, pathologically confident and cynical, ironic and happy, yet hungry and restless just the same.  It's like they never aged past 25.

You can't blame todays teens and college kids for being narcissists.  They're doing exactly what they were trained to do, are being told to do, what they saw done, by us.




Part 1 here.
Part 2 here.
Part 3 here. (You're reading it.)

-----

Diggs and Reddits and donations appreciated.  Do you want a telethon?  Is that what you want?










Comments

If their lifespan is prolon... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2008 12:02 AM | Posted by Spriteless: | Reply

If their lifespan is prolonged indefinitely by science? If the technological singularity comes? (well, that's just as big a change) My personal excuse for never aging past 25 is being 24. And I've known there's nothing on TV for awhile. Hence the internet, and books.

If those who hate narcissism must turn elsewhere for entertainment, might they encourage genuine personalities where they turn? Especially since the internet is so filled with two way communication. But if your generation is hardwired for one way communication, no wonder TV panders to monopolize the captive audience.

So... what's on that doesn't suck?

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It's all about *your* gener... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2008 12:42 AM | Posted by V: | Reply

It's all about *your* generation, huh?

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: -1 (5 votes cast)
Not sure that the use of th... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2008 1:36 AM | Posted by Ernunnos: | Reply

Not sure that the use of the term "voted off" is an indicator of anything. I still use "$64,000 question" to refer to a salient query, and that show went off the air over a decade before I was born. Of course, at that time there wasn't a whole lot on TV, so it was easier for centralized media to have a mass effect on culture and language. Everybody watched the same thing because that was all there was.

But I don't think you can have it both ways. You can't cite both the fragmenting of media (iPods, YouTube, etc.) and the occasional mass-media phenomenon that still happens (Survivor) as evidence for narcissism.

Well, I guess you can, but at that point you're a Calvinist. ("You can and you can't, you will and you won't, you're damned if you do...") Stick with the hard data. It's interesting enough without embellishment.

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I should mention h... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2008 4:13 AM | Posted by David: | Reply

I should mention here that the NPI measures more of the extroverted, "self-enhancing" kind of narcissism, because that's important for understanding why this result is probably wrong: 40% of UC students are Asian, vs. 6% in the rest of American colleges. I hope this doesn't require any explanation.
Sorry, but this really does require an explanation. That is ... some sort of empirical, as opposed to anecdotal, elucidation.

I'm pretty familiar with some of our disneyesque racial and cultural stereotypes, but I'm sure there's some verifiable research which goes beyond such silliness. Indeed, your elaboration on this point would probably keep others from erroneously jumping to conclusions.

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Many people feel that since... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2008 4:29 AM | Posted by Bored in Berlin: | Reply

Many people feel that since they don't watch TV (much) this doesn't apply to them. However, spending time on chats/games can make it even easier to be your own star on the best movie ever...

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It's like reading a feminis... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2008 6:30 AM | Posted by MouseAno(n)y: | Reply

It's like reading a feminist blog but you'd have to replace men with narcissism.

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Hmmm. Here is a question fo... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2008 10:57 AM | Posted by AK: | Reply

Hmmm. Here is a question for the clinicians in the house.

About twenty years ago, James Masterson proposed that there exists a more subtle variety of NPD. It is not the familiar, extroverted, I-am-a-celebrity NPD.

Masterson termed it 'closet narcissism'. In this type of NPD, you
grew up as a child, with one or two NPD parents already hogging the limelight. So you didnt get to exercise age appropriate grandiosity. Instead, a child in this predicament disowns his or her true self (or at least disowns some portions of his or her true self) and gets some parental nurture by mirroring the NPD parents.

So the child in this predicament grows up as a sort of lackey, entourage member (my term, not Dr. Masterson's) servicing and stroking the parents' mirror-hunger.

So, someone in this predicament might grow up rather mousy, self effacing, but its not from genuine humility but from having to distort oneself into holding up a mirror and providing supplies to one or more adult caregivers who were children in adult bodies.

Someone in this predicament may not grow up as a flamboyant narcissist but may go through life mirroring and enabling other, more flamboyant NPD types. They may be talented, get good grades
and degrees to please the parents, but end up in the entourages of more overt NPD types.

And these followers with closet narcissism might be the ones to commit crimes in loyalty to their leaders. Look at Enron.

So if this catagory of 'closet narcissism' has been recognized as a valid subtype of NPD (I read this 20 years ago and this may be a concept that never panned out) if closet narcissism has been recognized as a useful subcatagory for NPD, would tests such as NPI pick it up?

Not all people with NPD are obnoxious or dangerous.

Self disparagement can be used to maintain a false self, just as much as a mirror hungry extroverted false self.

And the energy of self disparagement is energy unavailable for participatory citizenship.

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It's so easy to check out o... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2008 3:33 PM | Posted by Common Reader: | Reply

It's so easy to check out of this world though, and join a real world.

I have a 15yo who is nothing like this. More importantly, while I write this, I also have a 23yo music teacher downstairs. He runs three or four businesses. He teaches a wide variety of students. He has a girlfriend. He's a performer, so I'm sure he has plenty of healthy narcissism in his make-up, but he is a totally functioning, participatory adult in the world.

There are PLENTY of young adults around like him. I find them somewhat cut off from tradition and culture; they live in a flat and mysterious world; they're easily swayed by demogogues and they lack historical perspective. But they're not like the people you're describing. I know them too. I know what you're talking about. But there are other things happening in the culture and you can unplug from the bad stuff and plug into the good stuff at any time. It's not even hard. Before the internet it was hard.

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And now we also have clonin... (Below threshold)

October 31, 2008 10:30 AM | Posted by Trei: | Reply

And now we also have cloning. So this generation may never "die".

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Is such narcissism not self... (Below threshold)

October 31, 2008 10:30 AM | Posted by Joseph Bergevin: | Reply

Is such narcissism not self-limiting? Everyone, when they're young, has a glorious ideal of themself and what they'll accomplish. Few youth strive to be the establishment. Usually, eventually, the real world does a good job of beating them down and tempering their expectations. It's hard to imagine you're Paris Hilton when you've been making photocopies and filing reports for 5 years.

Are the youth of today so different? I look at the 60s and my jaw drops at the sheer idealistic, self-indulgent craziness of it all. I can't fathom how disruptive and alien 60s youth culture must have been, following the staid 50s. As those kids aged, they've at least gotten in line, though not without subjecting us to drek like "The Big Chill."

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PS have you ever watched "s... (Below threshold)

October 31, 2008 10:31 AM | Posted by Trei: | Reply

PS have you ever watched "sweet little sixteen" (mtv)?

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Check out this fine example... (Below threshold)

November 2, 2008 1:26 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Check out this fine example of narcissism http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyK_TbXoqcw

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Please please please do you... (Below threshold)

November 3, 2008 7:32 AM | Posted by somerandomgeekname: | Reply

Please please please do you World of Warcraft analysis soon...

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I have no identity. I am n... (Below threshold)

November 3, 2008 7:36 AM | Posted, in reply to somerandomgeekname's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

I have no identity. I am narcissistic beyond normal bounds. Help.

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I want out. Help. Please.... (Below threshold)

November 3, 2008 7:37 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I want out. Help. Please.

You can't state observations but how does one get OUT? Help, please... help. Dear god, help...

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I also can't type, help?</p... (Below threshold)

November 3, 2008 7:38 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I also can't type, help?

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Anybody ever consider that ... (Below threshold)

November 4, 2008 9:11 AM | Posted by varangianguard: | Reply

Anybody ever consider that each generation is narcissistic in equivalent amounts? Or, do you simply fail to take into account that any other generation could ever be as important as your own is?

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help ... (Below threshold)

November 8, 2008 3:32 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by tid: | Reply

help

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<a href="http://www.wwd.com... (Below threshold) This is an interesting stud... (Below threshold)

November 12, 2010 3:02 AM | Posted by Medifast Coupons: | Reply

This is an interesting study. Hope you'll update more on this matter. Thanks!

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that show's still on the ai... (Below threshold)

January 25, 2011 9:13 PM | Posted, in reply to Ernunnos's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

that show's still on the air...

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"The 30 year old in 2000... (Below threshold)

January 26, 2011 4:01 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

"The 30 year old in 2000 wanted to watch Survivor and The Bachelor, so everyone had to watch Survivor and The Bachelor."

WRONG. Nobody HAS to watch TV at all: I don't and haven't for 10 years.

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"This trend is going to con... (Below threshold)

August 17, 2011 8:34 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

"This trend is going to continue, frankly, until we either have a major recession, war, or my generation dies."

One GFC with aftershocks still ringing, lets see if things turn around.

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It demands much time and ef... (Below threshold)

September 5, 2013 7:16 AM | Posted by Somnam: | Reply

It demands much time and efforts. People need it to understand the given topic, realize its problem, collect all data and analyze it logically. With all ideas seen in current material there would not be a single man or woman not able to finish his or her. This style of thinking corresponds to mine, as i look for someone to buy college papers on perfection for me this semester again.

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allan bloom died '92, but w... (Below threshold)

December 7, 2013 8:05 PM | Posted by yargo: | Reply

allan bloom died '92, but who were the rest? maybe there simply weren't any conservative culture war guys left, just like after the western roman empire ceased to exist the remaining bureaucrats and administrators continued to live for a while but never managed to raise successors.

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I can see how the "everyone... (Below threshold)

December 26, 2013 1:46 AM | Posted by J: | Reply

I can see how the "everyone must attend university" paradigm can contribute to a mass ego inflation. It's a new normal, which is fine, university is actually pretty good for taking up with previous failings occurred (through no fault of the students': poverty, fucked up parents, fucked up public education systems, rising tide you know) but it will result in most people saying "so what was your major, can you hand me that stapler?" Which is fine, it would have happened anyway. If the debt wasn't such a big problem it'd be a good feature of civilization. But this is America.

Some people like the "system." Don't forget that.

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