Narcissism, an inflated positive view of oneself not consistent with actual achievement, is on the rise in America, particularly in positions of leadership or power, according to Dr. W. Keith Campbell, author of “Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement.”
“You see higher levels [of narcissism] on reality television and higher levels in presidents, because I think that’s almost part of the job description now,” Campbell, a professor of psychology at the University of Georgia and the author of over one hundred scientific articles, told CNSNews.com.
Campbell was one of the researchers on a study where historians measured levels of narcissism in U.S. presidents, “The Double-Edged Sword of Grandiose Narcissism: Implications for Successful and Unsuccessful Leadership Among U.S. Presidents.”
“A lot of the way we develop political leadership now, it’s almost a celebrity process. So it’s going to strengthen narcissism,” Campbell said. And in reality TV, “you don’t need talent, but you need a lot of notoriety,” and that draws narcissists in.
Campbell pointed to the self-esteem movement and parenting techniques that reward children for “being wonderful” as opposed to accomplishment, false inflation of egos and grades with no correlation to educational attainment, as a turning point that begat the explosion of narcissism in America.
Narcissistic people think they’re smarter, more important, and better looking than everyone else – even though in reality they are average. They may have a lot of friends who know them on a superficial level (like Facebook), but they don’t have empathy for others, and they spend a lot of time trying to gain attention. They look for ways that will make them look good so they can gain attention and positive regard, Campbell said.
In a May 20, 2013 article titled, “The Me Me Me Generation,” TIME magazine reported, “The incidence of narcissistic personality disorder is nearly three times as high for people in their 20s as for the generation that’s now 65 or older, according to the National Institutes of Health; 58% more college students scored higher on a narcissism scale in 2009 than in 1982.
Campbell’s study, which ended with President George W. Bush, found that levels of narcissism in presidents are also on the rise. It found the highest level for Lyndon Johnson, followed by Teddy Roosevelt, Andrew Jackson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Richard Nixon.
“There have been some massive egos in the White House,” Campbell said.
Although one can find narcissists in leadership in business and in the military, Campbell speculated that there are more narcissists in the White House, because there is a much shorter vetting process.