Link of Narcissism and Art and Beauty Appreciation: History
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The relationship between narcissistic personality and art and beauty appreciation has become the focus of research investigations. Adaptive narcissists raise their sense of worth in order to shield themselves from harm caused by others. Because they aspire to be more attractive, healthier, and successful versions of themselves, they frequently have greater success in life than the majority of people. Grandiose and overtly narcissistic behavior are the main recognized characteristics of an overt narcissist, which is currently regarded as a personality disorder that puts mental health and wellbeing at peril. 

  • art
  • narcissistic personality
  • beauty

1. Introduction

Narcissism is a complex personality trait characterized by grandiosity, entitlement, and a lack of empathy. While traditionally viewed as a unidimensional construct, recent research has suggested that narcissism may be better conceptualized as a multidimensional construct, with distinct facets such as overt and covert narcissism. Overt narcissism is characterized by exhibitionism, dominance, and a need for admiration, and it is associated with a range of negative outcomes, including aggression, poor interpersonal relationships, and lower psychological wellbeing.

The concept of narcissism has been of interest to researchers across a range of disciplines for many years, and it has been investigated from various perspectives. However, in the last two decades, the phenomenon of narcissism has become increasingly intertwined with social media use. Indeed, recent research has suggested that social media platforms such as Facebook may facilitate the expression and validation of narcissistic traits [3,4,5].
One study highlighted the relationship between narcissism and social media use [3]. The authors argued that narcissistic individuals are more likely to engage in self-promotion on Facebook, and that the pursuit of likes and positive feedback on the platform may serve to reinforce and amplify these tendencies. In other words, Facebook may provide a fertile environment for the development and expression of narcissistic traits.
This notion is supported by a growing body of research on the topic. For example, studies have found that individuals high in narcissism tend to post more self-promoting content on social media [4], use more first-person singular pronouns in their posts [5], and are more likely to engage in social comparison and envy-inducing behavior on these platforms [1,2]. Additionally, some studies have suggested that the use of social media may contribute to the development of narcissistic tendencies in some individuals [6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17].
Despite the growing interest in the relationship between narcissism and social media use, it is important to note that the construct of narcissism itself has a long and complex history in the psychological literature. Narcissism has been measured using a range of different scales and instruments, including the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) [18,19], the Narcissistic Personality Disorder Scale (NPDS) [20], and the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) [21,22,23]. These instruments typically assess various aspects of the construct, such as grandiosity, entitlement, and exhibitionism.
One of the earliest and most widely used measures of narcissism is the Murray’s Narcissism Scale [17]. This scale, developed by Henry Murray in the 1930s, assesses various dimensions of narcissism, including self-esteem, exhibitionism, and autonomy. The scale was initially developed for use in clinical settings, but has since been used in a range of research contexts.
Another commonly used measure of narcissism is the NPI, developed by Raskin and Terry in 1988 [18]. This 40-item questionnaire assesses various aspects of narcissism, such as a sense of entitlement, a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy. The NPI has been used in a wide range of research contexts, and it has been found to be a reliable and valid measure of narcissism [19].
The NPDS, developed by Wink in 1991, is a 34-item self-report measure designed to assess the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder [20]. The scale assesses a range of narcissistic traits, including grandiosity, entitlement, and a lack of empathy. The scale has been used in both clinical and nonclinical settings, and it has been found to be a reliable and valid measure of narcissistic personality disorder.
The MMPI, first developed in the 1930s, is a widely used personality assessment tool that includes a range of scales designed to assess various personality traits and psychological disorders [22,23]. The MMPI has been used in numerous research contexts, and it includes a Narcissistic Personality Inventory scale that assesses grandiosity, entitlement, and a need for admiration.
Despite the availability of these various scales and measures of narcissism, it is important to note that the construct itself is not without controversy. Some researchers have argued that the construct of narcissism is poorly defined, and that different measures may capture different aspects of the phenomenon [24]. Others have pointed out that narcissism may be a complex and multifaceted construct, with different subtypes or dimensions [25,26]. Indeed, some have suggested that there may be important distinctions to be made between overt and covert forms of narcissism [27,28].
Given the complexity and diversity of the construct of narcissism, it is perhaps not surprising that there is ongoing debate and discussion in the literature about how best to measure and conceptualize the phenomenon. However, it is clear that narcissism is a construct of considerable interest to researchers and practitioners alike, and that social media use may be an important context in which to investigate its expression and impact.
In particular, the notion that social media platforms may serve to amplify and reinforce narcissistic tendencies has important implications for our understanding of how these platforms are used and experienced. For example, research has suggested that social media use may contribute to the development of a “selfie culture”, in which individuals are increasingly focused on presenting and promoting themselves online [29,30]. Similarly, social media may contribute to the rise of influencer culture, in which individuals with large followings use their platforms to promote products and lifestyles in ways that may be perceived as narcissistic [31].
Of course, it is important to note that not all individuals who use social media are narcissistic, and that many individuals use these platforms in healthy and positive ways. However, the relationship between social media use and narcissism is an area of growing interest and concern, and one that requires further investigation and discussion.
Narcissism has been a subject of study for several decades, with researchers exploring various facets of this personality trait. One of the areas of interest has been the identification and differentiation of two forms of narcissism: overt and covert [23,24]. These two forms of narcissism are distinguished by their expression of different behaviors, attitudes, and feelings.
Overt narcissism is characterized by a grandiose sense of self-importance, arrogance, and exhibitionism [25]. Individuals with this form of narcissism are often preoccupied with receiving admiration and attention from others and have a flagrant display of superiority. They exhibit a direct expression of their exhibitionism and lack empathy for others. Overt narcissism is associated with exploitative tendencies and a sense of entitlement [26].
On the other hand, covert narcissism is characterized by feelings of grandeur that are largely unconscious, a lack of zest for work, and a lack of self-confidence. Individuals with covert narcissism have vague feelings of depression, anxiety, grandiose fantasies, hypersensitivity, and insecurity. They also exhibit exploitative tendencies and a sense of entitlement [26].
To further explore these two forms of narcissism, researchers have used a range of measures, including the Profile of Narcissistic Dispositions (POND) and Kohut measures of grandiosity and idealization [26,27,28,29,30,31,32]. These measures have been used to identify three clusters of narcissism: overt, adaptive, and covert. The overt narcissism group is characterized by high scores on all of the POND dimensions, medium scores on the pathology of separation/individuation, and low scores on idealization and grandiosity. This group displays a pattern of behavior consistent with the classic symptoms of overt narcissism, including a grandiose sense of self-importance, arrogance, and a flagrant display of superiority [26,27,28,29,30,31,32]. The adaptive narcissism group, on the other hand, reports a range of low, high, and medium scores on each of the narcissism measures, with the pathology of separation/individuation scale having the lowest mean score. This group displays a more balanced profile of narcissistic traits, with some evidence of healthy narcissism [26,27,28,29,30,31,32,33,34,35]. Lastly, the covert narcissism group reports a profile of low to medium scores on all narcissistic measures, except for the pathology of separation/individuation, which was reported at a medium level. This group exhibits a pattern of behavior consistent with the classic symptoms of covert narcissism, including feelings of grandeur that are largely unconscious, a lack of zest for work, and a lack of self-confidence [26,27,28,29,30,31,32,33,34,35,36].
It is worth noting that the distinction between overt and covert narcissism is not always clear-cut, and there may be some overlap between the two forms [36]. Additionally, there may be subtypes or dimensions of narcissism beyond these two forms that warrant further investigation [36].
Overall, the identification and differentiation of overt and covert narcissism is an important area of research, as it helps us better understand the complex and multifaceted nature of this personality trait. By using a range of measures and exploring different clusters of narcissism, researchers can gain a more nuanced understanding of how narcissism is expressed and experienced. This knowledge can be useful for developing interventions and treatments for individuals who struggle with narcissistic tendencies, as well as for informing broader discussions about the role of narcissism in contemporary society.
In conclusion, the construct of narcissism has a long and complex history in the psychological literature, and it has been investigated from a range of perspectives and using a variety of measures. Recent research has suggested that social media use may be an important context in which to investigate the expression and impact of narcissistic tendencies. As such, understanding the relationship between narcissism and social media use has important implications for our understanding of how these platforms are used and experienced, and for our broader understanding of the nature of the self in contemporary society. Further research in this area is warranted, in order to better understand the complexities of this relationship and its implications for individuals and society as a whole.

2. Narcissism and Art and Beauty Appreciation

In a critical analysis of the concept of narcissism, previous research [37] conducted an examination and revision of the assumptions associated with this construct. The study challenged the notion that opposition to prevailing social forms represents a regression to narcissism. This assumption has been widely accepted in the literature. The study suggested that this assumption warrants serious consideration due to its prevalence. It was argued that alternative forms such as myth and art, which surpass societal structures, may be perceived as manifestations of narcissism. Consequently, these alternative forms were proposed as potential substitutes for the existing social order, albeit characterized by narcissistic tendencies.
In a separate study, the authors of [38] argued and provided empirical evidence to support the notion that Machiavellianism, which involves the manipulation of others, disdain for conventional morality, and viewing humankind with cynicism, is a theoretically appreciable personality configuration that is distinct from narcissism. The authors also posited that certain components of perfectionism form part of this configuration. Through their analysis, they sought to provide a nuanced understanding of the various personality traits and configurations that contribute to the construct of narcissism.
In one study [7], it was posited that narcissists manipulate others as part of their pathology by interacting “with their own reflection in the mirror of your face and actions”. They “pose”, i.e., adjusting their image by how they act and carve out a work of art. Similarly, the authors of [39,40] found that grandiose narcissistic individuals exhibit self-protective behaviors, such as derogation or devaluation, when threatened by comparison with a better-performing other or by negative feedback. These individuals also self-report concerns for self-presentation, status, power, dominance, and physical beauty.
In terms of generational differences, the authors of [39] suggested that Millennials resemble adults of other generations in many of their lifestyle choices due to their ideology or socioeconomic status, rather than their age. While they may be in the mainstream when it comes to areas such as going green and gun ownership, they express their uniqueness through other means such as body art and technology. Regarding creativity in teens, the authors of [41] pointed out that social media and mobile internet usage allows for creative expression through the sharing and remixing of online content such as artwork, photos, stories, and videos. Furthermore, the authors of [9] highlighted the expression of grandiosity in narcissistic individuals through unwarranted expectations, exceptionally high aspirations, and self-centeredness, as well as in fantasies of unfulfilled ambitions or unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal relationships.
According to the authors of [42], individuals who exhibit narcissistic traits, such as vanity, exhibitionism, superiority, and entitlement, and those who demand perfection of themselves tend to show interest in cosmetic surgery as they search for an objectively successful and aesthetically pleasing outcome. The authors of [33] noted that typical narcissistic children often have fantasies of wealth, power, beauty, or accomplishment. The Adaptive Overt Narcissism Scale (AONS), as validated in [28], includes an item on the appreciation of art and beauty.
A narcissistic personality, as defined in [43], is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love. The authors of [31] made correlations between the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI-10 and NPI-20) and the Hypersensitive Narcissism Scale (HSNS). The authors of [44] argued that women use selfies to move away from the idealized version of themselves and toward a more realistic representation, while warning that excessive selfie-taking does not necessarily correlate with body image disorders.
As stated in [45], individuals high in narcissistic traits are often charming, talented, successful, beautiful, and charismatic, and are able to cast a spell on others through compliments, scintillating conversation, and apparent interest in others. Lastly, the authors of [46] suggested that individuals high in openness (extraverts) are more likely to share information about intellectual topics, such as art, writing, research, current events, politics, and science, on social media platforms such as Facebook.
In one study [47], the motives for using Instagram were examined, including their relationship with contextual age and narcissism. The study found that “creativity”, including items such as “to find people with whom I have common interests”, “to show off my photography skills”, and “to create art”, was one of the four primary reasons for using this social networking service. Additionally, individuals who performed well in interpersonal connection tended to use Instagram more frequently for coolness, creativity, and surveillance. According to [48], individuals with covert narcissism have a grandiose sense of self, preoccupations with fantasies of power, and a requirement for excessive admiration. However, they may hide these attributes to gain the trust and liking of others. The authors of [49] suggested that the reason for the relationship between selfies and narcissism is that selfies generate strong emotions. Every narcissist requires a reflecting pool, and social networking sites such as Facebook have become our modern-day pool. Previous studies such as [38,40,42] confirmed the findings of [50], indicating that self-oriented perfectionism is not just an extreme need for achievement, but may also involve a willingness to exploit others in the pursuit of status, power, dominance, and physical beauty.

This entry is adapted from the peer-reviewed paper 10.3390/bs13060468

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