The Roots of Narcissus: Old and New Models of the Evolution of Narcissism

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Contribution to Book

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Evolutional Perspectives on Social Psychology





The construct of narcissism encompasses attributes such as arrogance, assertiveness, a sense of authority, entitlement, exhibitionism, exploitativeness, forcefulness, self-absorption, social potency, and vanity. The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of the evolutionary origins of this multifaceted trait. We posit: (1) Narcissism is rooted in physical characteristics that, in turn, shape one’s psychological development; (2) narcissism is shaped by complex gene × environment interactions; and (3) narcissism is related to numerous genes with very small effects that have been subjected to selection pressures over the course of human evolutionary history. Building on this third explanation, we propose a model for the evolutionary origins of narcissism. Namely, narcissism manifests as a result of selection for attributes that promote short-term mating and dominance—facilitating reproduction and survival.


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