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Do Narcissists—or "Nice Guys"—Finish Last?

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Originally posted on March 4, 2016.

Would you agree or disagree with these statements from the Narcissistic Personality Inventory?

1.    I know that I am good because everybody keeps telling me so.

2.    People love me. And you know what, I have been very successful.

3.    I really like to be the center of attention.

4.    Some people would say I’m very, very, very intelligent.

Excuse my fibbing. The even-numbered sentences are actually the words of Donald Trump—a “remarkably narcissistic” person, surmises developmental psychologist Howard Gardner.

Trump’s narcissism even extends to his self-perceived superior humility (which brings to mind the wisdom of C. S. Lewis: “If a man thinks he is not conceited, he is very conceited indeed.”):

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So how do self-important, self-focused, self-promoting narcissists fare over time? Does their self-assurance, charm, and humor make a generally favorable impression, especially in leadership roles? Or is their egotism, arrogance, and hostility off-putting?

In a recent Journal of Personality and Social Psychology article, Marius Leckelt and colleagues, report that narcissists make good first impressions, but over time, their arrogance, bragging, and aggressiveness gets old. Their findings replicate what Delroy Paulhus long ago observed in a seven-session study of small teams: People’s initially positive impressions of narcissists turned negative by the end.

So, will this phenomenon hold true for Trump and eventually deflate his popularity during this U.S. presidential campaign season? What do you think?

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About the Author
David Myers has spent his entire teaching career at Hope College, Michigan, where he has been voted “outstanding professor” and has been selected by students to deliver the commencement address. His award-winning research and writings have appeared in over three dozen scientific periodicals and numerous publications for the general public. He also has authored five general audience books, including The Pursuit of Happiness and Intuition: Its Powers and Perils. David Myers has chaired his city's Human Relations Commission, helped found a thriving assistance center for families in poverty, and spoken to hundreds of college and community groups. Drawing on his experience, he also has written articles and a book (A Quiet World) about hearing loss, and he is advocating a transformation in American assistive listening technology (see www.hearingloop.org).