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Take a quick peek at your Facebook or Instagram feed and you’ll be forgiven for wondering whether we’ve all become a little obsessed with, well, ourselves. But is this clamour for public approval just a sign of a more technological society, or are we actually becoming more narcissistic?
Deakin Associate Professor in Psychology Ross King says narcissism is nothing new. ‘In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a youth who became obsessed with his reflection in a pool and fell into a state of despair.’ He says narcissism is a personality trait, which may involve a person being self-centred and believing they have special abilities or attributes. A narcissistic person might also expect that others will like them, believe that they’re entitled to special treatment and lack empathy for others.
Assoc. Prof. King says there is some evidence that narcissism is on the rise. ‘We don’t have any studies that have been conducted on the general population in Australia but a longitudinal study in the US has shown that college students have over the last 30 years shown a rise in narcissism and a reduction in empathy,’ he says. ‘Four longitudinal and four cross-sectional studies show the same pattern and these have been conducted in China, New Zealand and other places.’
He says two major researchers in this area, Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell, point to a number of factors behind the rise. They include parenting styles that increasingly focuses on building self-esteem and provide praise and rewards that aren’t based on achievement, particularly in smaller families.
Assoc. Prof. King says the role of the internet and social media, along with more celebrities who are famous for simply being famous, have also contributed.
Do you suspect you, or someone you know, might be a little narcissistic? Take our quiz below.
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Interested in learning more about what makes people tick? Consider studying psychology at Deakin.
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