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A Comprehensive Examination Of Narcissists’ Self-Perceived And Actual Socioemotional Cognition Ability

Simon Mota, Marius Leckelt, Katharina Geukes, Steffen Nestler, Sarah Humberg, Michela Schröder-Abé, Stefan C. Schmukle, Mitja D. Back

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Narcissists are assumed to lack the motivation and ability to share and understand the mental states of others. Prior empirical research, however, has yielded inconclusive findings and has differed with respect to the specific aspects of narcissism and socioemotional cognition that have been examined. Here, we propose a differentiated facet approach that can be applied across research traditions and that distinguishes between facets of narcissism (agentic vs. antagonistic) on the one hand, and facets of socioemotional cognition ability (SECA; self-perceived vs. actual) on the other. Using five nonclinical samples in two studies (total N = 602), we investigated the effect of facets of grandiose narcissism on aspects of socioemotional cognition across measures of affective and cognitive empathy, Theory of Mind, and emotional intelligence, while also controlling for general reasoning ability. Across both studies, agentic facets of narcissism were found to be positively related to perceived SECA, whereas antagonistic facets of narcissism were found to be negatively related to perceived SECA. However, both narcissism facets were negatively related to actual SECA. Exploratory condition-based regression analyses further showed that agentic narcissists had a higher directed discrepancy between perceived and actual SECA: They self-enhanced their socio-emotional capacities. Implications of these results for the multifaceted theoretical understanding of the narcissism-SECA link are discussed.