What Really Makes Narcissists Angry (and Why)

In the second phase of the study, participants selected a spicy sauce for a second person to drink. They could select amounts from two bottles, one of which was a very hot pepper sauce, while the other was mild. Participants got a small taste of the sauces so that they would know how unpleasant the hotter sauce was. The idea was that the more aggressive the participant felt toward their partner, the more hot sauce they would want that participant to drink.

Participants who had  been given the bitter drink were more annoyed at their partner than those given the mild drink. As a result, people who were given the bitter drink were more likely to give hot sauce to the other person than those who were given the mild drink. The people high in vulnerable narcissism who received the bitter drink were most likely to give hot sauce to the other person. The vulnerable narcissists given the bitter drink were also most angry at, and least trusting of, the other person. Grandiose narcissism, however, did not predict aggression toward the other person or ratings of anger or trust.

These studies suggest that there are two distinct subtypes of narcissists:

  • Those whose narcissism reflects a feeling of self-importance tend to exploit other people, but they are not inclined to act aggressively or violently toward others.
  • Those whose narcissism reflects feelings of defensiveness and resentment feel shame when their self-esteem is threatened, and tend to react to those threats with anger and aggression.

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