Americans consistently reported a perception of the typical U.S. citizen as highly narcissistic, even meeting diagnostic criteria for the psychiatric disorder, according to studies conducted by UGA psychologists in collaboration with colleagues from around the world.
The reality is that fewer than one in 100 individuals meets the diagnostic criteria for the narcissistic personality disorder in most epidemiological surveys, marking it as a relatively rare disorder.
The study, “Narcissism and United States’ Culture: The View from Home and Around the World,” was published in the early online edition of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
The published research represents six studies that include surveys of American college students, American adults and participants from around the world about their perception of Americans. Two of the studies include data from citizens of other world regions who were asked to rate citizens of their own regions as well as those from the U.S.
Data from international samples indicated some tendency to rate the citizens of one’s country or region as more narcissistic than acquaintances or oneself—that is, these finding were not specific to the U.S. However, the differences in these ratings (self versus citizens in general) were smaller in other countries than they were in the U.S., meaning these perceptions are elevated in the U.S.
Although non-Americans from many other parts of the world viewed the typical American as highly narcissistic, they did not cast U.S. citizens in a purely negative light.
“They also said Americans are less neurotic, as well as more extroverted and conscientious, so it wasn’t just an indiscriminate criticism of Americans,” said study co-author Joshua Miller, a professor and director of the clinical training program in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences’ department of psychology. “It was a specific profile of traits that just happens to be very consistent with what we call grandiose narcissism—these sort of hyper-confident, aggressive, assertive individuals.”
Evidence indicates the perception of American narcissism is worse than the actual incidence—and skewed by the fact that, in the survey, respondents considered a limited array of people.
“People likely don’t think of their 320 million fellow citizens who live in this country when completing these ratings but of particularly salient examples who may well be narcissistic-and they are extroverted, perhaps over-exposed, and that is reflected in these perceptions,” Miller said.