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Education The Faculty Graduate Schools Graduate School of Behavioural and Social Sciences Research Master
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Grandiose and vulnerable collective narcissism

Date:17 May 2021
Author:Jasper Smit
Narcississm is often associated with Donald Trump
Narcississm is often associated with Donald Trump

My thesis is about collective narcissism. Narcissism is often associated with Donald Trump. Narcissists have an extremely positive self-image, are unable to handle criticism and tend to extol themselves. My research focuses on the collective variant of narcissism. This refers to groups that think they are fantastic and have accomplished a great deal for humanity. They cannot handle criticism of their group very well. This means that they have such a positive image of their own group that they sometimes use violence to defend the honour of their group. There are two variants of narcissism: vulnerable narcissism and grandiose narcissism. In our research, we have tried to find proof that these variants also exist in collective narcissism.

Why this subject?
I previously conducted a literature study on collective narcissism, which is a relatively recent concept that was first described in 2009. Based on an internship assignment, I then researched the concepts of vulnerable narcissism and grandiose narcissism. Eventually, my supervisor and I decided to make this the subject of my Research Master’s thesis, so that we could study both concepts in more detail. Our research focuses on violence, which I think is an interesting subject. I also have a Master’s degree in Social Psychology, for which I studied the conditions for violence. I thought it would be interesting to do more research on this subject. 

Questionnaire and manipulation
Our research is based on a questionnaire. We converted all the variables into questions and programmed these in Qualtrics. We then recruited a group of US participants and presented them with a manipulation: two texts that were almost identical, but with one important difference. The first text stated that both Democrats and Republicans love the USA, while the second text stated that Democrats don’t really love the USA that much, at least not as much as Republicans. We were hoping that the second text would result in different answers and follow-up questions among Republicans. 

Donald Trump

Our research is about violence and is related to Donald Trump. We think that Donald Trump took advantage of collective narcissism. There are also studies that show that people who voted for Trump would score higher on collective narcissism.

The concept of grandiose collective narcissism is characterized by people’s idea that their own country, in this case the USA, has contributed a lot to humanity, is extraordinary, has a lot of capabilities and deserves respect. We noticed that people scoring high on grandiose collective narcissism had very few negative emotions. People scoring high on vulnerable collective narcissism, who were vulnerable to criticism from others, felt angry, scared and humiliated whenever their group was criticized. This means that grandiose collective narcissism does not correlate with negative emotions, but vulnerable collective narcissism does. 

I really enjoyed doing this research and I would like to do more research on this subject. The process was very interesting and I would love to do it again. In hindsight, our research was a bit too complex due to the many variables. It probably would have been better if I had kept it a bit simpler. This would have allowed me to describe it more easily and to present the results in a better way. 

My supervisor would like to have another look at the data and analyse them. Maybe he will see results that we didn’t see initially and which could lead to a publication. In this study, we have confirmed that there are two concepts and that these result in different emotional reactions. I would be very interested in a job in research and I will start looking for one during the summer. Meanwhile, I would perhaps like to write another paper. 

About the author

Jasper Smit

Jasper (41, the Netherlands) has a Bachelor’s degree in History and Philosophy. For his Research Master’s degree in Behavioural and Social Sciences, he chose the specialization social psychology (Understanding Societal Change).