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Nothing Compares To Me: How Narcissism Shapes Comparative Thinking

Katharina Ohmann, P. Burgmer
Published 2016 · Psychology

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Feeling special feels good. This may be particularly true for individuals with narcissistic tendencies who put great emphasis on distinctiveness and uniqueness in relation to others. But how do people arrive at the conclusion that they are special? Psychological research has identified social comparisons as a powerful means to inform such judgments about the self. The present research investigates whether narcissism may be related to a particular strategy of comparative thinking. Specifically, we expected that narcissistic individuals—presumably to meet an elevated need for uniqueness—would predominantly focus on differences (as opposed to similarities) when engaging in comparisons. To test this prediction, four studies investigated how narcissism shapes comparative thinking in social and nonsocial judgment domains. The first two studies revealed that narcissistic personality tendencies were positively related to an informational focus on differences during habitual comparisons in both social and nonsocial contexts (Studies 1a and 1b). Two additional studies extended this relation between narcissism and difference focus to the domain of spontaneous social and nonsocial comparisons (Studies 2a and 2b). Such a content-free processing style during comparative thinking may assist narcissists to increase their feelings of distinctiveness, and may ultimately contribute to the rise and maintenance of narcissistic tendencies.
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