Narcissism is one of the most enigmatic and paradoxical constructs both in lay and academic psychology: Narcissists’ charisma and self-assuredness can give them tremendous energy that fascinates others, yet their aggressiveness and selfishness hinder their progress and turn many people off. We developed a new process model of grandiose narcissism, the Narcissistic Admiration and Rivalry Concept (NARC) that disentangles two distinct but positively related trait dimensions: narcissistic admiration and rivalry. The model is based on the idea that the narcissist’s overarching goal to maintain a grandiose self can be achieved by two separate social strategies: the tendency to approach social admiration by means of self-promotion (assertive self-enhancement) and the tendency to prevent social failure by means of self-defense (antagonistic self-protection). In a large set of studies including large online samples, representative longitudinal surveys, acquaintance reports, close relationship reports, interpersonal perceptions during group interactions, directly observed behaviors, dyadic partner reports, experience-sampling reports in real-life interactions, we are validating this two-dimensional model using the newly developed Narcissistic Admiration and Rivalry Questionnaire (NARQ). Our results show that narcissistic admiration and rivalry are positively correlated dimensions, yet they have markedly different nomological networks and consequences. While narcissistic admiration is, for example, related to a higher level of self-esteem, peer and dating popularity at zero acquaintance, narcissistic rivalry is related to higher self-esteem fluctuations, peer- and romantic relationship conflict at long-term acquaintance.
We have also contributed to the latest understanding of the structure of narcissism that distinguishes agentic (i.e., admiration), antagonistic (i.e., rivalry), and neurotic aspects in contrast to the former differentiation into grandiose and vulnerable narcissism. In line with this three-dimensional approach, we have proposed a developmental model that distinguishes successive agentic, antagonistic and neurotic modes of narcissism to describe within-person variations in narcissistic states in everyday live as well as developmental trajectories of narcissistic traits over longer periods of time.
To provide a more detailed understanding of narcissistic self-regulation and outcomes, we are investigating both the cognitive-affective reactivities that underlie narcissists’ everyday experiences (e.g., reactions to perceived status opportunities and threats that affect their well-being) and the behavioral expression, interpersonal perception, and evaluation processes that explain their effects on others over time (e.g. assertive and antagonistic behaviors that affect their popularity, and social status achievement).
To contribute to the scarce research on the determinants and development of narcissism, we have included the NARQ in large panel surveys such as the SOEP as well as more fine-grained and process-oriented longitudinal studies. This data is used to investigate environmental context factors, private and occupational life events as well as peer network and social interaction processes potentially affecting the development of narcissism.