Wealthy Selfies: How Being Rich Increases Narcissism

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The rich really are different — and, apparently more self-absorbed, according to the latest research.

That goes against the conventional wisdom that the more people have, the more they appreciate their obligations to give back to others. Recent studies show, for example, that wealthier people are more likely to cut people off in traffic and to behave unethically in simulated business and charity scenarios. Earlier this year, statistics on charitable giving revealed that while the wealthy donate about 1.3% of their income to charity, the poorest actually give more than twice as much as a proportion of their earnings — 3.2%.

“There’s this idea that the more you have, the less entitled and more grateful you feel; and the less you have, the more you feel you deserve. That’s not what we find,” says author Paul Piff, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley. “This seems to be the opposite of noblesse oblige.”

(MORE: Why the Rich Are Less Ethical: They See Greed as Good)

In five different experiments involving several hundred undergraduates and 100 adults recruited from online communities, the researchers found higher levels of both narcissism and entitlement among those of higher income and social class.

The study, which was published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, showed that when asked to visually depict themselves as circles, with size indicating relative importance, richer people picked larger circles for themselves and smaller ones for others. Another experiment found that they also looked in the mirror more frequently.

The wealthier participants were also more likely to agree with statements like “I honestly feel I’m just more deserving than other people” and place themselves higher on a self-assessed “class ladder” that indicated increasing levels of income, education and job prestige.

But which came first — did gaining wealth increase self-aggrandizement? Were self-infatuated people more likely to seek and then gain riches? Or, alternatively do narcissistic people feel especially entitled to rank themselves higher than their actual incomes and education levels justify, therefore creating a misleading connection between wealth and narcissism?

To explore that relationship further, the researchers also asked the college students in one experiment to report the educational attainment and annual income of their parents. Those with more highly educated and wealthier parents remained higher in their self-reported entitlement and narcissistic characteristics. “That would suggest that it’s not just [that] people who feel entitled are more likely to become wealthy,” says Piff. Wealth, in other words, may breed narcissistic tendencies — and wealthy people justify their excess by convincing themselves that they are more deserving of it.

(MORE: Think You’re All That? You Might Be Putting Your Health at Risk)

“The strength of the study is that it uses multiple methods for measuring narcissism and entitlement and social class and multiple populations, and that can really increase our confidence in the results,” says Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University and author of The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement, who was not associated with the research.

The findings therefore do not suggest that narcissists have some sort of financial or professional advantage. She says, “This paper should not be read as saying that narcissists are more successful because we know from lots of other studies that that’s not true. People say we have to be that way because it’s so competitive, but it doesn’t actually help you compete.”

Twenge also notes that there is a difference between narcissistic traits, as measured in this study, and clinical narcissistic-personality disorder. The disorder is actually more common among the poor rather than the rich, according to other studies. That’s probably because at its most extreme, narcissism destroys relationships both in the home and workplace — and therefore, is more likely to lead to unemployment and poverty, not success.

It’s also important to recognize that “entitlement is a facet of narcissism,” says Twenge. “And [it’s the] one most associated with high social class. It’s the idea that you deserve special treatment and that things will come to you without working hard.”

The results come as no surprise to Madeline Levine, a California psychologist and author of Teach Your Children Well, who has long treated affluent teens in her practice. “Their sense of entitlement is overpowering,” she says, describing a teenage patient who stomped in furious and feeling deprived because he was stuck driving his mother’s “mom-car Lexus” rather than being given his own BMW.

(MORE: Narcissists Know They’re Obnoxious, but Love Themselves All the Same)

“The narcissist doesn’t suffer the most, it’s the people around them that do,” Levine says. “How parents tolerate this kind of entitlement in their kids is kind of mind-boggling,” she adds, noting that the boy got his BMW.

Manipulating the sense of entitlement, however, may provide a way to influence narcissism. In the final experiment in the paper, the researchers found that having participants who listed three benefits of seeing others as equals eliminated class differences in narcissism, while simply listing three daily activities did not. “When we make people feel less entitled, [they are] less narcissistic,” says Piff. Twenge also notes that telling narcissistic people that someone else shares the same birthday or has similar fingerprints reduces their aggression toward those they see as more like themselves.

How long those results last or whether they translate into significant differences in behavior isn’t clear. Psychologists emphasize, however, that being able to see the world from other people’s perspectives — empathy — is critical to fighting narcissism.

In the meantime, the connection between wealth and entitlement could have troubling social implications. “You have this bifurcation of rich and poor,” says Levine. “The rich are increasingly entitled, and since they set the cultural tone for advertising and all those kinds of things, I think there’s a pervasive sense of entitlement.”

That could perpetuate a deepening lack of empathy that could fuel narcissistic tendencies. “You could imagine negative attitudes toward wealth redistribution as a result of entitlement,” says Piff. “The more severe inequality becomes, the more entitled people may feel and the less likely to share those resources they become.” The wealthier certain segments of society become, then, the more vulnerable communities may be to selfish tendencies — and the less charity the least among us can expect.

68 comments
Chrispleen
Chrispleen

Here comes the mob of hurt rich people. I've seen Narcissism in plenty of wealthy friends/family. It's horrifying to see somoeone who cannot empathize with those they don't see themselves in. Only excepting certain people in their lives who they can benefit from are fit their high standards. Narcissism is not needed in this life. And if you disagree then you should truly understand the unfair fantasy world you would have to live in to have narcissistic personality traits. Still don't agree. Well that's sadly the biggest sign of being a narcissist... Everything you think has to be the one and only right path plus denial. I might have traits myself. But the point is, it does humanity no good. Even when you used those traits to get ahead in life. Pieces of who you really are go missing. You become ruthless and dishonorable. You lose touch, connection and isolate yourself. And become one giant money making bully. I don't hate narcissists i feel awful for getting lost in themselves.

Chrispleen
Chrispleen

And of course not all rich act a certain way and not all AVERAGE people (stop saying poor it's ignorant and insulting) act a certain way. I'm just simply pointing out... Who the heck needs narcissim? and why is it almost impossible to treat??? There's barely any treatment for it.

buzzreview
buzzreview

Almost everyone has some narcissistic traits, but being conceited, argumentative, or selfish sometimes (or even all the time) doesn't amount to a personality disorder. http://www.seomelbournehq.net.au/

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EdFromOhio
EdFromOhio

It seems to me that while the wealthy may be a bit more self conscious...

The rich do however give far more to charity than poor people do. In fact one rich person often gives more that thousands of poor people combined. I think everyone should become rich and it can only help the poor.

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EdFromOhio
EdFromOhio

It seems to me that while the wealthy may be a bit more self conscious...

The rich do however give far more to charity than poor people do. In fact one rich person often gives more that thousands of poor people combined.

quando25
quando25

Great article and always well written. I would have to agree that people with a lot of money have an heir of arrogance about them and these people often feel like they are superior to everyone else. Very seldom do you see someone with money doing anything good with it. These types of people are very self centered and egotistical and not the type of people that I like to be around. Thanks for the informative article.

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AAKDJ

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brownbri1983
brownbri1983

Narcissism does help you to compete if you were a looser. Who is more likely to accept a win they don't deserve? Who is more likely to cheat or steal if they think they can get away with it? Who is more likely to feel fine about the outcome for the other competitors? Who is more likely to create institutions specifically designed to be their personal tools? Who is more likely to promote false claims in propaganda? It goes on

llchile
llchile

@brownbri1983 " Who is more likely to accept a win they don't deserve? Who is more likely to cheat or steal if they think they can get away with it? Who is more likely to feel fine about the outcome for the other competitors? Who is more likely to create institutions specifically designed to be their personal tools? Who is more likely to promote false claims in propaganda? "

The smartest people.  

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KevinWolter
KevinWolter

This author obviously has an agenda and backwards logic at making a point. As professional statistician, I am becoming nauseous with surveys, stats and studies taken out of context to drive a narrative. There are so many potentially overlooked variables contributing to situations that the A=B deductions found in mainstream media journalism are almost always misguided. The Bottom line is that there are jerks in every socioeconomic status group. "wealthy" people may be more "short-tempered" in traffic because they have more responsibilities and time pressures. We never know the study specifics but bias is a huge driver of studies and data gets skewed all too easily.

Few people grow up with butlers and nannies but I'm sure the wealthy are stressed a lot more as they have a lot to look after and manage. People seem to assume they woke up one day with a big pile of money in their lap wondering "gee, how did this get here". The American Dream says that anyone can set their mind to success and have a shot. The popular attitude now is that the American dream is dead. Well, my father always said: "If you cay you CAN-you're right & If you say you CAN'T-you're right". If we all say we Can't-we're right.

Does the author want is to hate & vilify the wealthy? Desire to be poor? OR, take on the new socialist agenda that it is our duty to take away the wealthy person's possessions to help them learn how to be happy. If material wealth causes misery, why "redistribute wealth"? If one thing is for sure, those who don't earn it certainly wont appreciate it as much as those who do.

The American system worked. The continued implementation of one socialistic program after another has methodically broken down the system simultaneously. The problem is, we've all been deceived into "zero-sum" thinking that if A has it, B doesn't have it. That is not how wealth is created. Look at America from inception to now. Where did all that wealth come from? It was created. To take from the one to give to the other reduces the incentive of both to create wealth.

Wealth is created. There is not a finite amount of wealth-especially when The Federal Reserve creates over $250Bill./month and over $1Trill. of that goes overseas every year. Americans are starving and we spend nearly $2Trill./year on overseas foreign aid and war-mongering. That is $6,667 for every man, woman & child in America. $26K/family of 4. Do our leaders REALLY care to help the "problem of the month" in America? No, because the media has to hype up every micro-cosmic testimony to sell stories. The media is great at identifying-or even creating-problems but rarely let their PC bias down while searching for real solutions.

Everyone is an expert on everyone else's problems. What if we actually returned to teaching our children personal responsibility and general kindness as desirable virtues. The Golden Rule is a good place to start-Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you-however, the more narcissist an individual, the greater the challenge posed by the golden rule.

As far as Jesus stating "The rich aren't usually benevolent", I've yet to read that verse. Biblical Greek has 7 times the words of modern English. In the bible, God blesses men with riches time and again. What Jesus stated was it was nearly impossible for the "rich in spirit" to inherit the kingdom of God because their material wealth superseded their spiritual walk. Jesus' friend, Nicodemus, was very wealthy as were many more of Jesus's supporters in the bible. The truth of the matter is that luck & timing plays a huge roll in successful business ventures. Those who claim to have earned it or deserve it because they worked so hard just don't realize their fortune of probability. Those who inherit the wealth are the most common violators.

People are people. So many covet another mans wealth that they actually speak about "the rich" as if they are a sub-species". The current PC view is that the rich are bad and the "poor"(still rich in a worldly sense), are the down and outers. How about we all learn that attitude is where we are either rich or poor, not monetarily.

Enough said

KW

brownbri1983
brownbri1983

@KevinWolter
 

Ya, the queen of england definitely doesn't represent some sort of long standing problem

MelanieRose
MelanieRose

@KevinWolter You denounce the statistics, but I don't seem to see anything in your comment except your own personal opinions. As a statistician, did you review the study published in "Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin"? Specifically where did you find the results of this study lacking? You have offered nothing but an outdated opinion about wealth and nothing statistically to support your position, which it seems you are accusing the author of this article is doing. Just because the results of the study do not fit with your entitled narcissistic world view, doesn't make the study or the results any less valid.

highnote606
highnote606

@KevinWolter I think the reason why rich people cannot inherit the Kingdom of Heaven is because of Sin. Not a single person is above the temptations of this world. Its almost easy to look at a person today and see they have the wrong outlook. Because everywhere you see people focusing on their appearance. How they look to others. I tell you this. The homeless man in town that holds up a sign has a far better chance in finding GOD than someone who actually believes they themselves are gifted. Jesus clearly gave many examples and spoke many words leading one to believe that someone who has material wealth in their heart needs to make a large sacrifice and see a different way. We don't live in a time when the Scriptures were written. Although man is still man. But the evil in this world has clearly created a society that successfully disguises right and wrong. And a whole system of beliefs and terminology has been created to lead people to confusion or just plain foolishness. Following social norms and politics instead of simply staying with biblical principles. Clearly Jesus told us that there are things we must do in order to be in a proper spiritual state. And to sum it up, we have to be spiritually poor and broken to the world. Jesus was beaten and persecuted. Look down upon by society. He did things that even the people of today would throw him in jail over. But the things He did was for GOD. Setting an ultimate example of loyalty and obedience to a greater good that this world demonizes time and again. If we choose to go through life being "trendy" or conforming to society, then we are already betraying GOD. Going to church will save no one. There is no ritual or system to follow. We must have deep rooted humility in our hearts. And the only way to that is through first having our hearts broken and purified. Being wealthy will prevent this from happening for the majority of all people. Furthermore. Striving for personal wealth is like taking life for granted. We should not live like there's always a tomorrow. Another sign of being far away from GOD. Jesus taught His disciples that very lesson. Humility should be guiding our life. Anything less, and we aren't humble at all.

Blastoff
Blastoff

I am an airline flight attendant and I often see some very very bad displays of human behavior.  Recently a very ego driven women was shrieking at me to "be CAREFUL I HAVE VALUABLES IN THAT BAG!!!"  I was rearranging a bin to help another passenger put a bag in the bin.  She then pouted because she couldn't have the entire bin for just her.  I needed help lifting a bag....no one helped me,  except a young veteran - who stood up - on his artificial legs to help me.   He was really really nice.

St. Francis said, "the more you own, the more you have to worry about."

highnote606
highnote606

@Blastoff I like your comment. With all the know it alls on here. You created a good perspective of humility. Too bad we all  aren't literally blind, deaf, or walking on fake legs. The world would be a better place.

KenDouble
KenDouble

Two explanations seem pretty obvious.

The further you are from the behaviors that created your wealth, the less you're likely to attribute your prosperity to those behaviors. What grows in its place is a belief in your own entitlement. When someone says approvingly "He hasn't forgotten where he came from" it implies that others in the same position have. No one wants to confront the random cruelty and amorality of the world, so a myth that somehow you deserve your success provides a cosy bubble. 

Let's face it, the rich are exposed to a lot less reality than the poor. Buddhist monks are required to beg for alms because it enforces humbleness. If you've got money and power, the chances of being contradicted or challenged diminish considerably.

theirmind
theirmind

Maybe there is some sense of accomplishment to show off their mischief in mind.

JaredHeath
JaredHeath

Jesus pointed out the rich aren't usually benevolent 2000 years ago.    I would suggest to you that conventional wisdom only suggests what you say it does in the collective minds of the rich.


I know very few poor people who would agree with your suggestion on conventional wisdom...in fact, most would say the opposite.

brownbri1983
brownbri1983

@JaredHeath  

There has been a long campaign to create the perception of need. It is a classic narcissistic tactic. We "need" charity for example

EthanHolshouser
EthanHolshouser

"The wealthier participants were also more likely to... place themselves higher on a self-assessed “class ladder” that indicated increasing levels of income, education and job prestige."

Well, for lack of a better word, duh.  Wealthy people *do* typically have higher levels of income, education, and job prestige than poorer people....

troyowen7688
troyowen7688

I make good money but am by no means rich.

I have worked for men that started to become rich and later did. (I think over a million IN THE BANK, is rich.)

I was friends with both of these people for years. The first one started making 1.4 Mill a year after deposing the former owner.

He changed RADICALLY!  Then he wanted control over everyone EVEN in their home in some cases!

His temper was intolerable.

Even though we had gone out for drinks and eats in the past, NOW I and the people I go out with are as he put it "SCUM" and if you were a smoker, yeeeesh he would rip on you everyday! 

The other guy was a VP at the same company, we had been much closer friends, going out to find women and such for years.

We went to Europe together. Great fun!

Then he began to bring in 250,000 a year, at first it was cool, he would pick up the tab even when I was going to.

Then after about 3 years he built his 2 million dollar home, and got a Ferrari.

That was when he started treating me and others differently, very stand offish, distant, never went out with us anymore.

Then he started "Banishing" people from his place, for just about anything, laughing at a bad joke for one.

So, I do believe you resent people when you get to a wealthy place, people tend to not be important too you anymore, unless they too are wealthy.

highnote606
highnote606

@troyowen7688 I have a problem with anyone who puts much emphasis on money. How much they have in the bank is irrelevant in comparison to where their heart is pointed. There is nothing in this world to justify personal wealth. But there is always something to justify making sacrifices for the good of those in need. I am not speaking of material needs as much as spiritual needs. I think of the old saying "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for the rest of his life."


Clearly its not about fishing. It's about devoting your life to a spiritual cause that this world so desperately needs. Jesus Christ left His worldly life behind to follow that cause. And everyone in His path was encouraged to follow Him. Many did. Many tried and failed. And many just plain refused. A great example of the many levels of entrapment in this world. Society hates GOD because society is governed by evil. And it will create anything it can to mislead people away from what is truly right. Because GOD created us all to learn to follow His principles, people will generally seek good. But because they will foolishly follow society to find it, they will fall into HYPOCRISY. And this is a common thing. Seeking and following the false path. Churches are the popular doorway to the false path. Allowing you to live as a hypocrites while smugly believing you are saved. They are FOOLS by biblical standards.


If the Spirit of GOD has led a man to a much needed cause. And it involves making money to make it work, then that might be a rare circumstance to justify wealth. But then again, it isn't wealth. The man isn't making money for himself. Just like Jesus actually had money. But none of it was used for himself. It was used to fullfill the needs to those in his path. But keep in mind that Jesus was considered a sinless man. Usually, man is incapable of holding money without greed kicking in. I say that strongly. Nobody is above temptation except Christ.


Also. If you look upon collective cultures in the world, you will find far more examples of humility. Because many are placed in an environment where its impossible to achieve personal wealth above others. Now I won't state that the world should be a collective culture. Because else how can our hearts know humility without first experiencing Sin and being broken from it? We need a mentor. Christ was a human who led people out. He taught and showed them. And then His disciples did. And we are to be more disciples. Not like a brand or a cult. Not through labels. But just in humble practice. Let's not boast that "I am a disciple!" Instead we should see ourselves as not worthy of GOD's forgiveness, even though we spend our life trying to be.


http://worldhatestruth.blogspot.com/

JudithSquires
JudithSquires

The growing gap between the rich and everybody else will doom our society.  It reminds me a lot of Margaret Atwood's wonderful dystopian (and prophetic) books, Oryx and Crake and the Year of the Flood.  A rich elite will live in a climate controlled, gated community fraught with luxury, while the majority will be coping with environmental degradation, crime and a mean-spirited struggled for dwindling resources.  I'm old enough so I won't be around to see the worst of it by I far for our children and grandchildren.

Realworldnonfantasyland
Realworldnonfantasyland

@JudithSquires I just want to Let you know, you are a hero, you are a hero because you paint the poor as victims and you paint the evil elite who are the only ones on earth with this so called Climate controlled luxury that I'm guessing is an air condition in their house.  Mean-spirited struggle for resources from my experience from being at CVS on Welfare payday is taking money out of the ATM there, skipping past the peanut butter and other nutrious snacks that are cheaper and going for all the junk food. 

jodyschmidt2010
jodyschmidt2010

I don't know if this epidemic can be resolved by manipulating entitlement to produce empathy. Sounds weak. The problem is that most of these rich kids (not the Zuckerbergs and Gates, who rose up, but the sons of Zuckerberg and Gates) were not bitten by what I like to call "The Picasso Bug".

Around 18-19 years old, I became an art, music and literature fanatic and wanted then and still want nothing more than to be the next Van Gogh. Nothing else will do. Wealth (unless made from selling paintings or music)? Materialistic rubbish. Does nothing for me. Good looks? Not bad, but not Keats either. If they are bitten by this 'affliction', they will quickly realize that they are pretty much useless burdens on humanity and the environment (as we all are) and may aspire to be the next Matisse.

This is not some compensation mechanism I came up with from suffering through poverty in my late teens (was not poor or close to it at the time), but has shaped me for the past 25 years and will continue to do so. It is actually a mindset that brings about a great leveling perspective and outlook toward our fellow man. Kind of, "Are you Gauguin? No? Then, please, your attitude is laughable". You never know. It could work.

jodyschmidt2010
jodyschmidt2010

In fine, when the Picasso Bug really bites, you don't give a fkuac about wealth, convenience, luxury or any other temporal concern. You don't look upon anyone with reverence unless they are established artists, or in the rare instance where they are not but you fully admire them. And, that's that. You could care less if you are ever wealthy. You just wanna be Van Gogh. Fellow artists know what I mean. Some may deny the ambition, but it drives almost all of them.

small_axe
small_axe

We made our beds over the last few decades fetishizing wealth, and now that our society is turning into some sort of Honduras style nightmare in which rich people walk around and drive around, not only like entitled a$$holes, but rather like they are literally lords of the manor -- Are we supposed to be shocked?

The wealthy are literally pulling food straight out of the mouths of our kids and people still stand in awe of them. Until common people wake up to the fact that the wealthy are a bigger threat to our peace and security in this country than any collection of foreign enemies, and begin to claw our money back from them, we have nothing to complain about as we have made our own beds, and now must sleep in them.

Realworldnonfantasyland
Realworldnonfantasyland

@small_axe hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha..... OH MY..... Our homeless people have cell phones, i've seen people asking for money while texting.  We walk around in peaceful neighborhoods because very few people are hungry.  With the exception of Chicago it seems like murder rates are going down.  People without jobs in my neck of the woods have nicer places to live at then I do.  Holy Cow, you would think that by reading your insane comment that the poor people are being locked in the basement of the titanic still and begging for bread crumbs like in the 1600's.  No instead they are taking their welfare checks and going to Convenience stores and stocking up on cheetos instead of peanut butter

JaredHeath
JaredHeath

Only a fool or someone completey out of touch with reality would suggest such things Realworld. 


Which one are you?

LogicSpeaks
LogicSpeaks

@Realworldnonfantasyland @small_axe According to several of your comments it appears you think that all poor people should be eating peanut butter over other junk foods as if peanut butter is a nutritious food?  Why don't you go eat peanut butter?

Now in terms of homeless people with cellphones who text while asking for cash, but I would imagine 99.99999% of those homeless probably don't do that.  Why probably? Because I've seen plenty of homeless people and they are typically all mentally ill alcoholics who will never have an opportunity to get off the street and live in a decent home.  Jobless people that live in amazing houses (EVERYWHERE!)? Please.  Careful with the over-generalization - you might kill someone.

Very few people are hungry? You have no idea what you're talking about.

Realworldnonfantasyland
Realworldnonfantasyland

What about the "where's mine, I deserve everything that the rich deserve crowd?"  Those are probably the most narcissitic crowd of people that are on earth. 

small_axe
small_axe

@Realworldnonfantasyland If you had read the article before posting your GOP snot de jure, you would know that it doesn't exist. It's just right-wing fantasy. 

"Earlier this year, statistics on charitable giving revealed that while the wealthy donate about 1.3% of their income to charity, the poorest actually give more than twice as much as a proportion of their earnings — 3.2%."

It is the "deep pockets/short arms syndrome" on steroids. 

Realworldnonfantasyland
Realworldnonfantasyland

@small_axe @Realworldnonfantasyland YAWNNNNN.... You think the rich are not horrible people so you are an GOP snot. blah blah blah, though I did vote for Obama....YAWWWNNNN.  I'm progressive.  Which means I'm for people getting their sh** together, quit making excuses and understand that you have only one life to live so quit blaming the system.  Excuses get you no where.  You are able to overcome the system, but if you blame the system then good luck getting over it.  This isn't England where you had classes that you weren't able to get out of back in the day