Master of Arts (MA)
Faculty of Science
Previous research suggests that narcissists (compared to less narcissistic individuals) lack empathy toward others unless specifically instructed to take others’ perspectives. But are narcissists capable of spontaneously empathizing with others without the need for instructed perspective-taking? Three studies addressed this question. Study 1 (Study 1a; N = 232 & Study 1b; N = 488) examined whether manipulating a target person’s level of narcissism (i.e., non-narcissistic, moderately-narcissistic, or highly-narcissistic) encouraged more empathy toward more narcissistic targets, who described a difficult romantic breakup, from more narcissistic participants. Study 2 (N = 590) used the same procedure and further examined whether target narcissism affects attributions that the target is responsible for the breakup and perceptions that they deserve negative outcomes. Study 3 (N = 648) examined whether effects on empathy and other outcomes depend on how antagonistic the target is, by manipulating target narcissistic antagonism (i.e., non-narcissistic, non-antagonistically-narcissistic, or antagonistically-narcissistic targets) using the same procedure. Results reveal that narcissistic participants perceived more similarity to the highly-narcissistic, non-antagonistically-narcissistic, and antagonistically-narcissistic targets than did less narcissistic participants. Results for empathy were somewhat inconsistent, although they overall suggest that narcissistic individuals empathize just as much as less narcissistic individuals with narcissistic targets. These findings suggest that narcissists do not lack empathy toward all others compared to less narcissistic individuals, and that narcissists can empathize without instructed perspective-taking.
Zhao, Alys Yijun and Jordan, Christian H., "Helping Those Who Are Like Me: Highlighting Similarities to Elicit Empathy in Narcissists" (2019). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 2209.
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