A new study into narcissism has found that while the trait can sometimes be negative for society at large, it is largely beneficial for the individual narcissist. In fact, narcissists are more likely to have lower levels of stress and depression.
According to researchers at Queen’s University Belfast, narcissism is ‘on the rise in modern societies’. Interested in finding out how and why, experts at the university have been studying the benefits of narcissism to the individual who experiences it.
The researchers defined narcissists as ‘likely to engage in risky behaviour, hold an unrealistic superior view of themselves, are over-confident, show little empathy for others, and have little shame or guilt.’
Studying 700 adults, the team found that narcissists view self-confidence and heightened self-importance as a ‘protective quality’ that reduces stress and insulates them against feeling bad about themselves.
However, the research also defined the different dimensions of narcissism, stating there are those with ‘grandiose characteristics’ who obsess over status and power, versus ‘vulnerable’ narcissists who use the traits in a more defensive way and tend to view others' behaviour as ‘hostile’. In that sense, grandiose narcissists are more likely to better handle stress and have a ‘very positive’ wellbeing.
‘While of course not all dimensions of narcissism are good, certain aspects can lead to positive outcomes,’ Dr. Kostas Papageorgiou, lead psychologist in the study told the BBC. ‘[Traits of narcissism] should not be seen as either good or bad but as products of evolution and expressions of human nature that may be beneficial or harmful depending on the context.’
With this in mind, Papageorgiou has called for further research to establish how to cultivate some of these traits and manage others – the more negative effects of narcissism – for what he calls ‘the collective good’.