Eric K. Mason
Narcissism is described as a “complex of personality traits and processes that involve a grandiose yet fragile sense of self as well as a preoccupation with success and demands for admiration (Owens, Wallace, and Waldman, 2015).” In addition, narcissism tends to conjure up people with negative personality characteristics, such as self-centeredness, self-absorption, extreme confidence, entitlement, exploitive interpersonal style, as well as excessive need to be in control. In contrast, humility may be regarded as the opposite personality characteristic of narcissism (Owens, Wallace, and Waldman, 2015).
Some research has pointed out that narcissists who are able to balance their narcissistic tendencies with an enough humility are able to function very well in certain roles. For example, CEOs with the appropriate combination of narcissism and humility can make great leaders. It’s been noted that Steve Jobs, who was often described as having a complicated personality, possessed such a mix of these contrasting personality traits (Owens, Wallace, and Waldman, 2015).
One unique aspect of narcissism is that those who are afflicted with it are often unaware of it. Indeed, they are not in denial, but rather unable to see how their behavior is pathological. Therefore, the development of psychological measures that can identify narcissism serve an important role in the treatment of personality disorders (Albrecht, 2015).
The psychological measure, Selfism (NS), is one tool used to identify narcissism. Selfism is defined as an orientation towards life in which one views most situations in a selfish or egocentric manner. Basically, selfism is another term for narcissism invented by the developers of the Selfism NS scale. The NS is a 28-item scale. Each item is scored on a 5 point Likert scale, which results is a score of 28 to 140. The NS includes 12 filler items designed to disguise the purpose of the measure. These items are not scored. “A person who scores high on the NS views a large number of situations in a selfish or egocentric fashion (Corcoran and Fischer, 2000).”
The NS was normed on 1,305 people, mostly evenly split between males and females. The majority were undergraduate students. The NS was found to have good reliability with split-half reliabilities of .84 and .83. Test-retest reliability was also very high over the course of four weeks at .91. Validity of the NS is said to be fair, with significant correlations with the Narcissistic Personality Inventory and the Religious Attitude Scale. In addition, the NS showed positive correlations with high NS scores and the observations of others who felt the individuals with high scores displayed narcissistic characteristics (Corcoran and Fischer, 2000).
Example Items from the NS
Below are some examples of questions included in the NS:
- In times of shortages it is sometimes necessary for one to engage a little hoarding.
- Thinking of yourself first is no sin in this world today.
- It is more important to live for yourself rather than for other people, parents, or for prosperity.
- The widespread interest in professional sports in just another example of escapism. (This item is a filler item meant to disguise the intent of the test. There are 12 filler items).
- I don’t see anything wrong with people spending a lot of time and energy on their personal appearance (Corcoran and Fischer, 2000).
As one can easily see, most of the relevant question or geared toward measuring levels of one most people may consider selfish traits.
The NS was administered to a 43 year old (English) male who is currently in a drug rehab clinic for gaming/porn addiction. Client has lived in Holland for the past 12 years. Client has a history of depression and anxiety. Client currently takes an antidepressant daily. Client has been attending therapy for several years in Holland. Client often comes across as “self-consumed” and neurotic, though not narcissistic.
Client scored a 74 on the NS. The average score was 75 for those on which the NS was normed (Corcoran and Fischer, 2000). Therefore, according to this measure the client would fall within the normal range of selfism or narcissism.
Albrecht, C.P., et al. (2015). Behavioral processes underlying the decline of narcissists’
popularity overtime. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Corcoran, K., & Fischer, J. (2000). Measures for Clinical Practice: A Source Book, Volume 2
Adults 3rd ed. The Free Press.
Owens, B., Wallace, A., & Waldman, D. (2015). Leader narcissism and follower outcomes:
The counterbalancing effect of leader humility. Journal of Applied Psychology, 100 1203-1213.