Can’t Buy Love (For Self), Measure It


Below is the term paper I had to write for my Psychology of Abnormal Behavior class. This research paper discusses methods for measuring narcissism and how narcissism relates to weak communication skills. I had to summarize at least three case studies; I list my sources at the end.

I’ll post more creative work later.




In this paper I summarize three case studies that focus on pathological narcissism versus trait narcissism, how social media is associated with narcissistic behavior and how rejection is dealt with via online commutation. At the end of the paper, I will conclude how self-obsessed today’s young adult population is and how – similar to what the other studies cover – difficult narcissism is to measure.

Mark A. Blais, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Jessica A. Little, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, collaborated a case study based off of research compiled by W. Keith Campbell and Joshua D. Miller (July 2010). Pathological narcissism (PN) and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) have been studied through clinical case reports and psychodynamic theory (Ronningstam, et. al, 2005), while the study of trait narcissism has promoted empirical methods. According to Miller and Campbell, the recent understanding of pathological narcissism has been dealt with as hypothetical rather than empirical. Pathological narcissism should be studied in a similar manner that trait narcissism is studied: empirical methods (Miller & Campbell et al., 2010). Therefore, Miller and Campbell underwent research to contrast how both types of narcissism would test when using empirical methods.

Trait narcissism has always been based off of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI; Raskin & Hall, et al., 1981). Miller and Campbell are aware of the limitations associated with the NPI, especially when it comes to clinical research. With that being acknowledged, it is difficult to judge the relevance of the trait narcissism’s research without considering the inconsistency of the NPI. The NPI was originally developed to measure narcissism in nonclinical samples. NPI subscales tend to lack adequate psychometric properties (Brown, Budzek, & Tamborski, et al., 2009). According to Pincus (2009), the NPI measure adaptive and maladaptive qualities, which raises awareness when it comes to the scales scoring method (Brown et al., 2009). After referring to these studies, Miller and Campbell concluded that the NPI might not be the best source when it came to measuring pathological narcissism.

For a study composed by Rosenthal, Hooley and Steshenko, pathological narcissism was measured on the Narcissistic Grandiosity Scale and levels of grandiosity were found (2007). In a separate experiment, levels of entitlement were found when pathological narcissism was measure on the Psychological Entitlement Scale (Campbell, Bonacci, Shelton, Exline, & Bushman, et al., 2004). Entitlement and grandiosity, although functioning independently of each other, were founded to be two well-defined dimensions of pathological narcissism. These dimensions concluded to be associated with mental health and problematic behaviors. This approach to measuring pathological narcissism may appeal to other researchers who have devoted time to studying the narcissistic personality disorder, since dimensions of both grandiosity and entitlement are associated with narcissistic personality disorder.

As an efficient way to measure pathological narcissism, the Pathological Narcissism Inventory (PNI) was established (PNI; Pincus et al., 2009). The PNI measures narcissistic vulnerabilities: fragile self-esteem and self-devaluation. When diagnosing someone with pathological narcissism, it is encouraged that the clinic uses the PNI instead of the NPI (Smith, McCarthy, & Zapolski, 2009).

Besides other subtypes of narcissism – trait narcissism, pathological narcissism – narcissistic traits have shown in college students. Levels of narcissism have increased in the past thirty years and are exploited in today’s younger generation (Twenge & Foster, 2010). Narcissistic traits amongst college students have increased thanks to the consistency advertisement of celebrities (Pinksy & Young, 2009). For a case study composed by College students were instructed to watch a variety amount of videos that exploited celebrities in a positive or negative light. Some students were scored with the Narcissistic Personality Inventory before watching the video, some during, and some after. The NPI scores estimated that 2/3 of the college students have strong narcissistic traits (Wilkins & Johnson, Aug 2012).

J. Stephen Byrne and Edward J. O’Brien compiled a case study that focused on how people reacted when rejected over online communication. According to the NPI scoring, narcissism was predicted to be a moderator of angry feelings and reactions to social rejections. To compile their information, O’Brien and Byrne interviewed a number of participants for twenty minutes over the Internet. At the end of the conversation, some participants were told that they were either accepted or rejected as participants for a different study.

Those who had high levels of narcissism did not seem angry when they were rejected. Females, who were rejected, showed traits that related back to the entitlement dimension, which correlated with narcissistic personality. For females who scored high on the entitlement dimension, they came across as less agreeable but still made a strong effort to control their anger. Participants who were accepted showed no anger at all but were slightly affected and confused by the choice of communication, sensing the manipulation behind online chatting. Participants who showed no sign of narcissism and were rejected actually showed signs of disappointment but did not feel manipulated (Byrne & O’Brien, Jan 2008).

After this case study was completed, Byrne and O’Brien realized that narcissism and anger are not related. They acknowledged that there are not many studies that focus on narcissistic females; a majority of narcissistic case studies are based off of male participants. Byrne and O’Brien also noted that communication over the web is filtered and weak and difficult to decipher (2008).

For my most recent presentation in my public speaking class, I spoke about how most people prefer to text over talk to a person and how that has gradually weakened an average person’s social skills. Relating back to Byrne and O’Brien’s case study, people today (from my generation) do not know what it is like to be “stood up” or “rejected.” Not too long ago, there was a time when people actually had to pick up the phone and call someone to talk to them. Now we have so many sources for communication: Facebook, Twitter, instant messenger, text messaging. By using these applications on a daily basis, we have come across as seeming more self-absorbed. People are obsessed with how they look or appear on Facebook; we are constantly checking our phones because we love being needed.

Although we enjoy having our Facebook status being liked or when our friend texts us, some of us are unreliable. Our phone may be attached to our hip, but when it comes to replying to someone right away, we don’t always do so. Because how we speak via text message or instant chat is so careless (i.e. abbreviations, emoticons) our verbal skills are not up-to-par. We are accustomed to hiding behind a cell phone or a persona on Facebook that when it comes to speaking in person, some of us shut down or ignore it altogether. The most self-absorbed thing someone can do is not apologizing when they should. Not only that, but if they do apologize, they apologize through a text message. Texting someone “I’m sorry” is completely different than actually saying it. The people of this generation are so obsessed with how they’ve exploited themselves as a profile online, that they aren’t aware of how selfish they seem in the real world.

Narcissistic personality disorder can be difficult to measure because people act differently through text messaging or instant chat than they do in a conversation over coffee; this was proven in Byrne and O’Brien’s research. Scoring how someone reacts or feels is hard to decipher when it’s not face-to-face. These case studies as well as the growth of technology-dependence throughout the years, shows that the average person’s priority is being admired or acknowledged (via Facebook or texting), instead of making an effort to respect and communicate with the one’s around them.



Blais, Mark & Little, Jessica: Toward an Integrative Study of Narcissism. July 2010. American Psychological Association.

Wilkin, Donelle & Jean Johnson: Narcissism in College-age Students: Media Effects, Aug 2012. American Psychological Association

 Byrne, J. Stephen & O’Brien, Edward: Narcissism, Anger, and Social Rejection Processes in Online Communication, Jan 2008. American Psychological Association


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