What Really Makes Narcissists Angry (and Why)

This new set of studies suggests that vulnerable narcissism leads to aggressive and violent reactions to other people, while grandiose narcissism does not.

In one study, participants were given several personality inventories, including one designed to test for grandiose narcissism and one designed to test for vulnerable narcissism. Participants filled out scales that measured their level of physical and verbal aggression, as well as anger and hostility toward others. The researchers also measured individuals’ tendency to experience shame. Vulnerable narcissists were much more prone than grandiose narcissists to experience shame; to find their self-esteem influenced by the beliefs of others; and to experience anger and rage toward others. Grandiose narcissists were more prone than vulnerable narcissists to feel entitled, and to try to exploit others.

A second study looked at aggression in the laboratory. Participants were measured on scales of grandiose and vulnerable narcissism. Participants had been told that the study was focused on food preferences. They were told that they had been paired with a partner sitting in another room. First, that unseen partner was going to select a food for them to taste, and then they were going to select a food for the partner to taste.

The first phase of the study was designed to provoke a reaction in the participants. They were told that their partner selected a bitter drink for them to try. They were told that the partner could give them a mildly bitter drink or a harshly bitter drink, and could select how much of it the person had to try. One group of participants was given three ounces of the harshly bitter drink. This was expected to make the participant feel like their partner did not like them. A second group of participants was given three ounces of the mildly bitter drink. This condition was a control. All participants were asked to drink what they were given, and all did so. The participants given the more bitter drink felt it was vile. Participants rated how annoyed they were at the other person as well as their anger toward that person and their trust of that person.

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