Narcissism and the Use of Personal Pronouns Revisited

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Journal of Personality and Social Psychology






[Correction Notice: An Erratum for this article was reported in Vol 109(3) of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (see record 2015-37773-002). The authors erroneously reported the overall correlation, first stated in the abstract, between Narcissism and total first-person-singular use as .02 (.017) instead of .01 (.010). The misreporting of the overall correlation between Narcissism and total use of first-person singular does not change the results or interpretation in any way (i.e., the near-zero association between Narcissism and I-talk). The online version of this article has been corrected.] Among both laypersons and researchers, extensive use of first-person singular pronouns (i.e., I-talk) is considered a face-valid linguistic marker of narcissism. However, the assumed relation between narcissism and I-talk has yet to be subjected to a strong empirical test. Accordingly, we conducted a large-scale (N = 4,811), multisite (5 labs), multimeasure (5 narcissism measures) and dual-language (English and German) investigation to quantify how strongly narcissism is related to using more first-person singular pronouns across different theoretically relevant communication contexts (identity-related, personal, impersonal, private, public, and stream-of-consciousness tasks). Overall (r = .02, 95% CI [−.02, .04]) and within the sampled contexts, narcissism was unrelated to use of first-person singular pronouns (total, subjective, objective, and possessive). This consistent near-zero effect has important implications for making inferences about narcissism from pronoun use and prompts questions about why I-talk tends to be strongly perceived as an indicator of narcissism in the absence of an underlying actual association between the 2 variables.

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