Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Objective: Prior research suggests that grandiose and vulnerable narcissists differ from one another in their responses to various threats—among these results is a finding suggesting individuals displaying grandiose narcissism are more likely to report negative mood states following an imaginal achievement failure, while individuals displaying vulnerable narcissism report more negative mood following an imagined romantic rejection. Further, a body of literature within the field of narcissism examines whether grandiose and vulnerable narcissism are better conceived as stable traits or as states that may fluctuate within an individual. This study sought to determine whether state grandiose and vulnerable narcissism might differ depending on the valence (enhancing or threatening) and domain (achievement or interpersonal) of manipulated feedback.
Method: Participants who were led to believe they were participating in a study of “Creativity, Social Interaction, Personality, and Mood” were randomly assigned to either complete an achievement-based task (a selection of items from the Compound Remote Association Test) or an “interpersonal” activity (a game of Cyberball, played with fictitious students at other schools). After completing one of these tasks, participants completed measures of positive and negative affect, state self-esteem, and state grandiose and vulnerable narcissism. For the purpose of exploratory analyses, one week before the above manipulation participants also completed disguised measures of trait narcissism, self-esteem, and insecure adult attachment.
Results: Results did not appear to support our hypotheses. State grandiose and vulnerable narcissism—and, for the most part, affect—did not vary significantly based on whether participants received enhancing or threatening feedback, nor were there significant differences based on whether that feedback was achievement-based or interpersonal.
Correlational analyses showed trait grandiose narcissism was associated with higher self-esteem and better mood, while vulnerable narcissism was associated with lower self-esteem, worse mood, and an insecure attachment. It was also observed that participants higher in state grandiosity tended to score higher in state vulnerability, and vice versa. Trait narcissism scores from Part 1 were also strongly correlated with state narcissism scores collected in Part 2.
Conclusions: Although other studies suggest grandiose and vulnerable individuals may differentially vary in mood following interpersonal and achievement-oriented feedback, the same phenomenon may not occur in regard to state narcissism. Possible implications and limitations of this study are discussed.
Kloss, Ian C., "The Effect of Feedback on State Narcissism" (2021). USC Aiken Psychology Theses. 56.