Archive for Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Narcissism rising in college students

February 27, 2007


— Today's college students are more narcissistic and self-centered than their predecessors, according to a comprehensive new study by five psychologists who worry the trend could be harmful to personal relationships and American society.

"We need to stop endlessly repeating 'You're special' and having children repeat that back," said the study's lead author, Professor Jean Twenge of San Diego State University. "Kids are self-centered enough already."

NPI responses

Twenge and her colleagues, in findings to be presented at a workshop today in San Diego on the generation gap, examined the responses of 16,475 college students nationwide who completed an evaluation called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory between 1982 and 2006.

The standardized inventory, known as the NPI, asks for responses to such statements as "If I ruled the world, it would be a better place," "I think I am a special person" and "I can live my life any way I want to."

The researchers describe their study as the largest ever of its type and say students' NPI scores have risen steadily since the current test was introduced in 1982. By 2006, they said, two-thirds of the students had above-average scores, 30 percent more than in 1982.

Narcissism can have benefits, said study co-author W. Keith Campbell of the University of Georgia, suggesting it could be useful in meeting new people "or auditioning on 'American Idol.'"

"Unfortunately, narcissism can also have very negative consequences for society, including the breakdown of close relationships with others," he said.

The study asserts that narcissists "are more likely to have romantic relationships that are short-lived, at risk for infidelity, lack emotional warmth, and to exhibit game-playing, dishonesty, and over-controlling and violent behaviors."

Twenge, the author of "Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled - and More Miserable Than Ever Before," said narcissists tend to lack empathy, react aggressively to criticism and favor self-promotion over helping others.

Blame self-esteem

The researchers traced the phenomenon back to what they called the "self-esteem movement" that emerged in the 1980s, asserting that the effort to build self-confidence had gone too far.

As an example, Twenge cited a song commonly sung to the tune of "Frere Jacques" in preschool: "I am special, I am special. Look at me."

"Current technology fuels the increase in narcissism," Twenge said. "By its very name, MySpace encourages attention-seeking, as does YouTube."

Some analysts have commended today's young people for increased commitment to volunteer work. But Twenge viewed even this phenomenon skeptically, noting that many high schools require community service and many youths feel pressure to list such endeavors on college applications.

Campbell said the narcissism upsurge seemed so pronounced that he was unsure if there were obvious remedies.

"Permissiveness seems to be a component," he said. "A potential antidote would be more authoritative parenting. Less indulgence might be called for."

The new report follows a study released by UCLA last month that found that nearly three-quarters of the freshmen it surveyed thought it was important to be "very well-off financially." That compared with 62.5 percent who said the same in 1980 and 42 percent in 1966.

Student reaction

Yet students, while acknowledging some legitimacy to such findings, don't necessarily accept negative generalizations about their generation.

Hanady Kader, a University of Washington senior, said she worked unpaid last summer helping resettle refugees and considers many of her peers to be civic-minded. But she is dismayed by the competitiveness of some students who seem prematurely focused on career status.

"We're encouraged a lot to be individuals and go out there and do what you want, and nobody should stand in your way," Kader said. "I can see goals and ambitions getting in the way of other things like relationships."

Kari Dalane, a University of Vermont sophomore, says most of her contemporaries are politically active and not overly self-centered.

"People are worried about themselves - but in the sense of where they're going to find a place in the world," she said. "People want to look their best, have a good time, but it doesn't mean they're not concerned about the rest of the world."

Besides, some of the responses on the narcissism test might not be worrisome, Dalane said. "It would be more depressing if people answered, 'No, I'm not special.'"


lounger 11 years, 2 months ago

we have to groom our children to be confident in this fast track society we live in. they will QUESTION the elders, government and others on more things and maybe through this they will have a better understanding of why we are destroying the enviorment (global worming, pollution) Invading countrys without a sound reason and so on. and as far as my space/you tube being self centered that is total nonsence. the movies and music that is put out by major corporations is largely trash and if you really want to take the temprature of america get on line and listen to the REAL MUSIC and the REAL SHORT FILMS out there. Hello its time for the everyday person to have his/her 15 minutes. maybe David cray needs a little reality check!!!!!!!!!!!

davisnin 11 years, 2 months ago

Yes lounger, a 15 year old lip syncing to shakira while half naked is the essence of film.

lounger 11 years, 2 months ago

davisnin.. that is all you can say about my response? do you think the medium of film was really good when it first came out?? give it some time not everything is instant.

Phillbert 11 years, 2 months ago

Boooorrrring... This story isn't about me, so I don't care.

George_Braziller 11 years, 2 months ago

What happened to watching out for your neighbor, caring for others, and doing things just because they are the right thing to do? If they need constant ego masturbation then they will NEVER know what it means to be an adult.

"Oh, that personally inconviences me at this very moment so screw it!" "I'm special and important because everyone told me so. I guess it must be true."

Please -- can you hand me the barf bag?

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