Narcissism & Self-Conscious Emotion Reactivity

Published: 10 November 2021| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/bbf5w3xzct.1
Michelle Schoenleber


This study tested hypotheses regarding narcissism dimensions -- grandiose and vulnerable narcissism -- and their relationship to state emotional reactivity following an interpersonal stressor (using a guided imagery task). After completing trait measures of the narcissism dimensions and a state measure of specific emotions -- guilt, shame, anger, anxiety, and sadness -- all participants listened to the guided imagery task and imagined themselves as the main character in the story. They then completed the state emotion measure again. We hypothesized that the interpersonal nature of the task would contribute to increases in self-conscious emotions among the participants as a whole. Additionally, past research suggests that grandiose narcissism should be associated with increases in anger, anxiety, and sadness, with vulnerable narcissism likely being associated with increases in anger. We also hypothesized that grandiose narcissism would be negatively associated with guilt following the interpersonal stressor; we expected no association between grandiose narcissism and shame following the interpersonal stressor. By comparison, we hypothesized that vulnerable narcissism would be positively associated with shame following the interpersonal stressor but negatively associated with post-stressor guilt. Participants in this study included 142 undergraduates. Notable results include: > The interpersonal stressor was associated with increases in shame, anger, and sadness -- but not guilt or anxiety. > After accounting for pre-task levels of the respective emotion, greater grandiose narcissism was associated with lower guilt reactivity. > By comparison, greater vulnerable narcissism was associated with heightened guilt reactivity and shame reactivity.


Steps to reproduce

Grandiose narcissism -- Narcissistic Grandiosity Scale Vulnerable narcissism -- Hypersensitive Narcissism Scale State emotions (pre- and post-task) -- Positive and Negative Affect Schedule-Expanded (with additional items for assessing guilt, shame, anger, anxiety, and sadness effectively) The guided imagery task was that used in past research with undergraduates (e.g., Dixon-Gordon, Chapman, Lovasz, & Walters, 2011; Dixon-Gordon, Yiu, & Chapman, 2013). Specifically, participants listened carefully to a 5-minute recording and imagined themselves as the protagonist in the events, which include several socially rejecting experiences (e.g., finding out about their partners’ infidelity, overhearing friends criticize their appearance and behavior).


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Guilt, Shame, Narcissism