Sunday, September 01, 2013

Wealth and the Inflated Self: Class, Entitlement, and Narcissism

Paul K. Piff
Sept. 2013

Americans may be more narcissistic now than ever, but narcissism is not evenly distributed across social strata. Five studies demonstrated that higher social class is associated with increased entitlement and narcissism. Upper-class individuals reported greater psychological entitlement (Studies 1a, 1b, and 2) and narcissistic personality tendencies (Study 2), and they were more likely to behave in a narcissistic fashion by opting to look at themselves in a mirror (Study 3). Finally, inducing egalitarian values in upper-class participants decreased their narcissism to a level on par with their lower-class peers (Study 4). These findings offer novel evidence regarding the influence of social class on the self and highlight the importance of social stratification to understanding basic psychological processes.


Upper-class individuals also behave in a more self-interested fashion. In one study, upper-class individuals proved more selfish in an economic game (Piff et al., 2010). In other research, upper-class individuals showed reduced sensitivity to others’ suffering (Stellar, Manzo, Kraus, & Keltner, 2012) and exhibited increased tendencies toward self-serving unethical behavior (Piff, Stancato, Côté, Mendoza-Denton, & Keltner, 2012).


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