Men and young adults are more narcissistic than women and older people

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Current psychological study on gender and age differences

 (Image: Pixabay CC0)
(Image: Pixabay CC0)
Psychologists at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität (WWU) in Münster, Germany, have joined forces with an international consortium to conduct the most comprehensive study to date on gender and age differences on the topic of narcissism. The scientists surveyed around 270,000 people for their study. The two most important findings: Men tend to be more self-absorbed than women - moreover, the highest narcissism scores are found in young adults. With increasing age, this expression decreases again in both men and women. The results were recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

-Previous studies have used very different measures of narcissism and often examined only a few test subjects," says Mitja Back from the Institute of Psychology, explaining the background to the study. The study, which is based on the evaluation of questionnaires, summarizes data from the past ten years. -Our results show, in line with previous research, that narcissism is on average somewhat more pronounced in men than in women-, adds Mitja Back. However, there are slight differences depending on the degree of narcissism. Somewhat larger differences are found in more aggressive aspects of narcissism and smaller differences as far as self-unconfident aspects of narcissism are concerned. According to the study, men showed stronger elbow narcissism than women. Overall, however, the differences between men and women in narcissism were not very large and were smaller than the large differences that exist within gender groups. -Both men and women run the gamut from extremely modest people to giant egos.â

Young adults particularly narcissistic

In addition, the researchers were able to confirm the differences associated with the age of those studied. According to the study, the strongest narcissism was exhibited by young adults. The youngest participants were 18 years old at the time of the survey, and narcissism was most pronounced among them. With increasing age, the values decreased constantly. -These findings should by no means be misunderstood as generational differences-, explains Mitja Back. -We know from studies that narcissism as a whole has not increased over the last few generations - even if there is currently a lot of talk about a ’Generation Me’. Today’s generation is no more narcissistic than previous generations, but the age effect is evident in every generation. According to Mitja Back, these results are consistent with the findings of the psychology of aging. -In young adulthood, the focus is often on getting to know new people and fighting for one’s own resources. Narcissistic traits can certainly bring advantages in this process. Older people, on the other hand, focus more on protecting what they have already achieved and place more value on a few close relationships. Narcissism can be detrimental to this.

Original publication

Weidmann, R., Chopik, W. J., Ackerman, R. A., Allroggen, M., Bianchi, E. C., Brecheen, C., Campbell, W. K., Gerlach, T. M., Geukes, K., Grijalva, E., Grossmann, I., Hopwood, C. J., Hutteman, R., Konrath, S., Küfner, A. C. P., Leckelt, M., Miller, J. D., Penke, L., Pincus, A. L., . . . Back, M. D. (2023). Age and gender differences in narcissism: A comprehensive study across eight measures and over 250,000 participants. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 124(6), 1277-1298.