Narcissism and Attractiveness

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Journal of Research in Personality 44 (2010) 133–136

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Journal of Research in Personality
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Narcissism and attractiveness
Nicholas S. Holtzman *, Michael J. Strube
Washington University in Saint Louis, Psychology, 1 Brookings Drive, C.B. 1125, St. Louis, MO 63130-4899, United States

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Is narcissism related to observer-rated attractiveness? Two views imply that narcissism is unrelated to attractiveness: positive illusions theory and Feingold’s (1992) attractiveness theory (i.e., attractiveness is unrelated to personality in general). In contrast, two other views imply that narcissism is positively related to attractiveness: an evolutionary perspective on narcissism (i.e., selection pressures in shortterm mating contexts shaped the evolution of narcissism, including greater selection for attractiveness in short-term versus long-term mating contexts) and, secondly, the self-regulatory processing model of narcissism (narcissists groom themselves to bolster grandiose self-images). A meta-analysis (N > 1000) reveals a small but reliable positive narcissism–attractiveness correlation that approaches the largest known personality–attractiveness correlations. The finding supports the evolutionary and self-regulatory views of narcissism. Ó 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Article history: Available online 21 October 2009 Keywords: Narcissism Narcissistic personality inventory Personality Attraction Attractiveness Facial attractiveness Physical attractiveness Mating strategies Evolutionary psychology

1. Introduction Narcissism is a personality construct often researched in clinical, personality, and social psychology. Core features include being manipulative, over-bearing, exhibitionistic, entitled, vain, arrogant, and self-sufficient (e.g., Raskin & Terry, 1988). Are narcissists physically attractive? Conspicuously missing from modern research is evidence for a positive correlation between narcissism and physical attractiveness—a correlation implied by the original myth about the attractive Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection (Ovid, 1 A.C.E./2004). The primary goal of the current paper is to summarize evidence about this correlation. In light of the evidence, we re-evaluate four views that lead to various predictions about the effect: the positive illusions view of narcissism (e.g., Gabriel, Critelli, & Ee, 1994), the theory that attractiveness is statistically independent of personality (Feingold, 1992), the emerging view that narcissism happened to evolve in response to the viability of short-term mating (Holtzman & Strube, in preparation), and the self-regulatory processing model of narcissism (Morf & Rhodewalt, 2001). Finally, more generally we advocate that people revisit the wisdom embedded in the ancient myth about Narcissus. Narcissism has been well-described in the literature. It is typically operationalized using the relatively recently created 40-item forced choice narcissistic personality inventory (NPI, Raskin & Terry, 1988). A sample item is ‘‘Modesty doesn’t become me” versus the non-narcissistic item ‘‘I am essentially a modest person.”

* Corresponding author. Fax: +1 314 935 7588. E-mail address: (N.S. Holtzman). 0092-6566/$ - see front matter Ó 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2009.10.004

When narcissists take personality questionnaires using the most prominent model of personality, the Big Five (Goldberg, 1992), they tend to score high on extraversion and low on agreeableness (e.g., Vazire, Naumann, Rentfrow, & Gosling, 2008). The other factors (openness, conscientiousness, neuroticism) are not consistently related to narcissism. These five broad factors, however, are a level removed from precise facets that may portend a narcissism–attractiveness correlation. On more specific...
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