Wednesday, September 16, 2015

In U.S. politics, does narcissism trump all?

Donald Trump at a recent campaign rally. Photo by Michael Vadon.

Emory psychologist Scott Lilienfeld and his graduate student Ashley Watts recently co-authored an opinion piece for the New York Times entitled "The Narcissist in Chief." Below is an excerpt:

"The political rise of Donald J. Trump has drawn attention to one personality trait in particular: narcissism. Although narcissism does not lend itself to a precise definition, most psychologists agree that it comprises self-centeredness, boastfulness, feelings of entitlement and a need for admiration. We have never met Mr. Trump, let alone examined him, so it would be inappropriate of us to offer a formal assessment of his level of narcissism. And in all fairness, today’s constant media attention makes a sizable ego a virtual job requirement for public office. Still, the Trump phenomenon raises the question of what kinds of leaders narcissists make. Fortunately, a recent body of research has suggested some answers.

"In a 2013 article in Psychological Science, we and our colleagues approached this question by studying the 42 United States presidents up to and including George W. Bush. ...

"We found that narcissism, specifically 'grandiose narcissism' — an amalgam of flamboyance, immodesty and dominance — was associated with greater overall presidential success. (This relation was small to moderate in magnitude.) The two highest scorers on grandiose narcissism were Lyndon B. Johnson and Theodore Roosevelt, the two lowest James Monroe and Millard Fillmore."

Read the whole article in the New York Times.

If you'd like to hear more on the topic, Ashley Watts will be giving a talk titled "Should We Worry about a Narcissist in the Oval Office?" on Thursday, September 17, as part of this month's Nerd Nite Atlanta. The line-up of three speakers starts at 8 pm at Manuel's Tavern.

Grandiose narcissism reflects U.S. presidents light and dark sides
Psychopathic boldness tied to U.S. presidential success

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