Further Reading and Citations


The Selfishness of Others touches quickly and superficially on many debates and histories to which others have dedicated years of study. A train of thought and a search history, and an inquiry into the uses of the “I” in writing, the essay isn’t intended as a comprehensive or scholarly account. But here, I want to praise and recommend just a few of the many books, papers, and essays  that do deeper dives.

Janet Malcolm’s The Journalist and the Murderer made me curious, several years ago, about the diagnosis of narcissism and its relation to certain issues about how writers do their work. When I began research in 2013, I wasn’t hearing many voices questioning the ubiquity of the diagnosis, but like-minded books and essays began to appear. Elizabeth Lunbeck’s The Americanization of Narcissism (Harvard UP, 2013) gives a slow and invaluable history of the debates over narcissism within the fields of psychology, and argues convincingly for their centrality in shaping (and dividing) the discipline and earning its influence in the U.S.. Lunbeck’s book also inspired reviews that questioned our moral hysteria over the narcissism of others, plumbed the history of psychology’s interest in narcissism, and thought deeply about Lunbeck’s critique of Lasch, most brilliantly Vivian Gornick’s “In Defense of Narcissism” in the Boston Review, Laura Kipnis’ “Me, Myself, and Id“ in Harper’s, Suzy Hansen’s “America’s Long Holiday” in The Baffler, and Joan Acocella’s “Selfie” in The New Yorker.

I quickly found strong voices urging caution about moral diagnosis from within psychology itself: Jeffrey Arnett, Kali Tryzesniewski, Brent Roberts, and others. The question of how to measure narcissism has been debated at length within psychology (see citations below); readers without access to scientific databases will easily find online several recent review articles summarizing these debates, including Joe Pierre’s “The Narcissism Epidemic and What We Can Do About It”: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/psych-unseen/201607/the-narcissism-epidemic-and-what-we-can-do-about-it. W. Keith Campbell has written with nuance and care about the difficulties in defining and measuring the thing we call narcissism in many places—“Comparing Clinical and Social-Personality Conceptualizations of Narcissism,” with Joshua D. Miller in the Journal of Personality, is a good starting place.

Gary Greenberg’s The Book of Woe: The DSM and the Unmaking of Psychiatry gives a vivid insider account of the discipline’s recent battles over diagnosis and a critique of the DSM, and William Davies’ The Happiness Industry historicizes and challenges the trend toward quantification of psychic states. Of the new books that argue that “narcissism” is indeed a good name for the contemporary intersection of (American) culture and individuals, I recommend Anne Manne’s The Life of I (Melbourne UP, 2014), which gives a concise and thoughtful history of psychology’s debates; I found it late and cited it only briefly. Craig Malkin’s Rethinking Narcissism (Harper Collins, 2015) I haven’t yet read. But it seems to seek to temper the pathologizing of everyday narcissistic qualities, arguing for their benefits.

On the narcissism of what we do online (and in the category of “if this had been in the world I wouldn’t have started writing on this topic”) there is now Rachel Syme’s gorgeous Selfie (https://medium.com/matter/selfie-fe945dcba6b0#.8hss6weka), which articulates some things we miss if we categorically condemn self-displays online. Now I’m reading Kenneth Goldsmith’s mesmerizing Wasting Time on the Internet, which is so far, like Syme’s essay-book, “a cold hand on a warm forehead,” to borrow the words of Karl Ove Knausgaard, whose work I was thinking about all the time as I wrote. A special issue of Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology (September 2005) was invaluable reading for me in learning about the philosophical debates over evil. And on the subject of empathy, virtuality, and our tendency to demonize those “without empathy” as “beasts,” J.M. Coetze’s The Lives of Animals, about which there used to be a whole chapter.

There was not room in the book, which was supposed to be even more brief, to include the full list of studies consulted in the writing of the essay; here they are, by page number, and a few corrections and clarifications (to the print edition in English), along with some of the websites from the narcisphere; the rest are easy enough to find on the web.


p. 18, Since 1980…the DSM-5 puts the statistic, confusingly, at 0-5 percent…

Correction: the DSM-5 puts the statistic, confusingly, at 0-6.2 percent.

p. 21 - Varieties of Narcissism

Phallic narcissism:

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=phallic%20narcissist’; http://www.sociopathicstyle.com/phallic-narcissistic-personality/; https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/angela-neustatter/masculinity-and-phallic-narcissism

Collective narcissism:

de Zavala, Agnieszka; Chichocka, Aleksandra; Eidelson, Roy; Jayawickreme, Nuwan. “Collective narcissism and its social consequences.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 97 (2009): 1074-96.

Narcissistic Leadership:

Mccoby, Michael. Narcissistic Leaders. New York: Random House, 2003; “Narcissistic Leaders: The Incredible Pros, the Inevitable Cons.” Harvard Business Review.  https://hbr.org/2004/01/narcissistic-leaders-the-incredible-pros-the-inevitable-cons

Cultural narcissism:

http://thenarcissisticlife.com/subtypes-of-narcissism/; see Christopher Lasch’s The Culture of Narcissism.

Corporate Narcissism:

Alan Downs, Beyond the Looking Glass: Overcoming the Seductive Culture of Corporate Narcissism. New York: Amacom, 1997.

Organization Narcissism:

Duchon, Burns, “Organizational Narcissism.” Organizational Dynamics 37 no. 4 (October–December 2008): 354–364.

Medical Narcissism:

John Banja, Medical Errors and Medical Narcissism. Boston: Jones and Bartlett, 2005; https://scholarblogs.emory.edu/sick/2014/02/25/medicine-breeding-grounds-for-narcissism/

Sexual Narcissism:

Hurlbert, D.F., Apt, C. (1991). "Sexual narcissism and the abusive male". Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy 17 (4): 279–92

Ni, Preston. “8 Signs You’re in a Relationship with a Sexual Narcissist.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/communication-success/201504/8-signs-youre-in-relationship-sexual-narcissist

Spiritual Narcissism:

Lurie, Rabbi Alan. “The Allure of Narcissistic Spirituality.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-alan-lurie/the-allure-of-spiritual-n_b_803415.html

Ryan Duncan, “5 Warning Signs of a Spiritual Narcissist.” http://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/5-warning-signs-of-a-spiritual-narcissist.html

White Coat Narcissism:

Seeman, Mary V. “White Coat Narcissism.” CMAJ 184 no. 1 (2012).  http://www.cmaj.ca/content/184/1/E98.full

Acquired Situational Narcissism:

Sherrill, Stephen. “Acquired Situational Narcissism.” http://www.nytimes.com/2001/12/09/magazine/09ASN.html

Conversational Narcissism:

Schoenwald, Christine. “How to Tell if You’re a Conversational Narcissist.” http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2015/09/27/how-to-tell-if-youre-a-conversational-narcissist/

Communal Narcissism:

Gebaur et al. “Communal Narcissism.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 103 No. 5 (2013): 854–878; Peg Streep, “The Communal Narcissist: Another Wolf Wearing a Sheep Outfit” https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/tech-support/201605/the-communal-narcissist-another-wolf-wearing-sheep-outfit.  

p. 62, Tom Wolfe’s “The Me Decade”…was on the cover of New York, not Time.

p. 66, “I’m not very assertive

Raskin, R. N., and C. S. Hall. 1979. A narcissistic personality inventory. Psychological Reports 45 (2): 590.

“I like to take responsibility for my decisions” should be “I like to take responsibility for making decisions.

p. 67 the measure has been widely tested for validity…

Cambell, W. Keith, Carrie Pierce Bush, Amy Brunell, and Jeremy Shelton. “Understanding the Social Costs of Narcissism: The Case of the Tragedy of the Commons.” Personal Social Psychology Bulletin 31, no. 10 (2005): 1358-68.

Campbell, W. Keith, Eric A. Rudich, & Constantine Sedikides. “Narcissism, Self-esteem, and the Positivity of Self-Views: Two Portraits of Self-love.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 28 (2002): 358-368.

DeWall, C. Nathan, Laura E. Buffardi, Ian Bonser, W. Keith Campbell. “Narcissism and Implicit Attention Seeking: Evidence From Linguistic Analyses of Social Networking and Online Presentation.” Personality and Individual Differences. 51, no. 1 (2011): 57-62.

Emmons, R. A. “Factor Analysis and Construct Validity of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory.” Journal of Personality Assessment 48 (1984): 291-300.

Gabriel, Marsha T. “Narcissistic Illusions in Self-evaluations of Intelligence and Attractiveness.” Journal of Personality 62 (1994): 143-155.

Hepper, Erica G., Claire M. Hart, Rosie Meek, Sylwia Cisek, Constantine Sedikides. “Narcissism and Empathy in Young Offenders and Non-offenders.” European Journal of Personality. 28, no. 2 (2014): 201-210.

Kasser, Tim, and Richard M. Ryan. “Further Examining the American Dream: Differential Correlates of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Goals.” Personal Social Psychology Bulletin 22, no. 3 (1996): 280-287.

Morf, Carolyn and Frederick Rodewalt. “Unraveling the Paradoxes of Narcissism: A Dynamic Self-Regulatory Processing Model.” Psychological Inquiry 12, no. 4 (2001): 177-196.


p. 68-69. Studies supporting the theory of an increase in narcissism.

Twenge’s innovation…

Twenge, Jean. M., Sara Konrath, Foster, J. D., W. Keith Campbell, Bushman, B. J. “Egos inflating over time: A cross-temporal meta-analysis of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory.” Journal of Personality, 76 (2008): 875-901; Twenge, Jean. M., & Foster, J. D. “Mapping the scale of the narcissism epidemic: Increases in narcissism 2002-2007 within ethnic groups.” Journal of Research in Personality, 42 (2008): 1619-1622.

Millennial expectations for education and career…

Reynolds, J., Stewart, M., MacDonald, R., & Sischo, L.. “Have adolescents become too ambitious? High school seniors’ educational and occupational plans, 1976 to 2000.” Social Problems, 53 (2006): 186–206.

Twenge, Campbell, & Freeman. “Generational Differences in Young Adults’ Life Goals, Concern for Others, and Civic Orientation, 1966–2009.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102, no. 5, (2012): 1045–1062.

And they score lower in empathy…

Konrath, O’Brien, and Hsing. “Changes in Dispositional Empathy in American College Students Over Time: A Meta-Analysis.” Personality and Social Psychology Review 15, no. 2 (2011): 180–198.

Narcissism and Self-esteem:

Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, W. K.. “Age and birth cohort differences in self-esteem: A cross-temporal meta-analysis.” Personality and Social Psychology Review, 5 (2001): 321-344.

Campbell, Hoffman, Campbell, & Marchisio. “Untangling the links between narcissism and self-esteem. A theoretical and empirical review.” Social and Personality Psychology Compass. 2 (2011): 1415-1439.

See the complete list of studies cited by Twenge and Campbell here.

p. 70 “By 2006, two-thirds of college students…” Twenge, Jean and W. Keith Campbell, The Narcissism Epidemic. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2009), 30.

p. 70-1 Studies critiquing the NPI and the theory of an increase in narcissism

Ackerman, Robert A., Edward A. Witt, M. Brent Donnellan, Kali H. Trzesniewski, Richard W. Robins, and Deborah A. Kashy. “What Does the Narcissistic Personality Inventory Really Measure?” Assessment 18, no. 1 (2011): 67-87.

Campbell, W. Keith, Joshua D. Miller. “Comparing Clinical and Social-Personality Conceptualizations of Narcissism.” Journal of Personality. 76, no. 3 (2008): 449-476.

Orth, Ulrich, Kali H. Trzesniewski, and Richard W. Robins. 2010. “Self-esteem development from young adulthood to old age: A cohort-sequential longitudinal study.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 98 (4): 645-58.

Rosenthal, Seth A., R. Matthew Montoya, Leigh E. Ridings, Stacey M. Rieck, Jill M. Hooley. “Further Evidence of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory’s Validity Problems: A Meta-Analytic Investigation.” Journal of Research in Personality 45 (2011): 408-416.

Trzesniewski, K. H., Donnellan, M. B., & Robins, R. W. “Do today’s young people really think they are so extraordinary? An examination of secular changes in narcissism and self-enhancement.” Psychological Science, 19 (2008): 181–188.

Trzesniewski, K. H., Donnellan, M. B., & Robins, R. W. “Is ‘‘Generation Me” really more narcissistic than previous generations?” Journal of Personality, 76 (2008): 903–917. 

 See also the entire issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science, 5 no. 1 (2010). In “It is Developmental Me, Not Generation Me,” Brent W. Roberts, Grant Edmonds and Emily Grijalva merged new data from University of Illinois students with Twenge and Trzesniewski’s datasets, and found no NPI increase. They also did a study confirming earlier research that “every generation is Generation Me,” by finding average NPI scores decline with age more sharply than the small increase Twenge found in NPI scores.

p. 71 “Using data from the Monitoring the Future Project…1976, other psychologists…” should be “Trzesniewski and another group of psychologists…”

“In terms of the narcissism/self-esteem connection, Erin Myers and Virgil Zeigler-Hill…”

Myers, Erin M., and Virgil Zeigler-Hill, “How much do narcissists really like themselves? Using the bogus pipeline procedure to better understand the self-esteem of narcissists.” Journal of Research in Personality 46 (2012), 102-105.

p. 72 “With other collaborators, Zeigler-Hill…”

Jennifer Vonk, Virgil Zeigler-Hill, Patricia Mayhew, Sterett Mercer. “Mirror, mirror on the wall, which form of narcissist knows self and others best of all?” Personality and Individual Differences  54 (2013), 396-401.

See also Virgil Zeigler-Hill and Avi Besser, “A Glimpse Behind the Mask,” on the ways in which the relationship between narcissism and self-esteem fluctuates in reaction to events. Journal of Personality Assessment, 95 no. 3 (2013), 249-260.

p. 73 “A 2010 metastudy of papers in psychology found…”

In psychology and psychiatry combined, the percentage of positive results was 91.5 (p. 2); the “50% higher” statistic is for all “soft” papers; as far as I can tell, Fanelli does not break out a percentage for quantitative psychology.

Fanelli, Daniele. ""Positive" Results Increase Down the Hierarchy of the Sciences." PLoS One 5, no. 4 (04, 2010).

Christopher, J., & Brannick, M. “Publication bias in psychological science: Prevalence, methods for identifying and controlling, and implications for the use of meta-analyses.” Psychological Methods, 17, no. 1 (2012), 120-128.

“a 2015 metastudy…”

Open Science Collaboration. “Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science.” Science. 349 (August 2015).There isn’t a simple standard for replication; 39% of psychology studies were subjectively rated, by the researchers, as having replicated original findings; 36% had significant results, objectively speaking, compared to 97% of the original studies.

p. 74 “There is still more work to do…” Open Science Collaboration, 4716-7.

p. 75 The social psychologist Jeffrey Jensen Arnett…

See the first issue of Emerging Adulthood (2013).

p. 80A virtual reality experiment…

Slater, Mel, Angus Antley, Adam Davison, David Swapp, Christoph Guger, Chris Barker, Nancy Pistrang, and Maria V. Sanchez-Vives. “A Virtual Reprise of the Stanley Milgram Obedience Experiments.” PLOS ONE 1 no. 1 (2006), e39.

The question of this study was “whether participants would respond to such an extreme social situation as if it were real in spite of their knowledge that no real events were taking place.” They did, which suggested to the researchers that VR will open up “empirical studies of obedience and related extreme situations, an area of research that is otherwise not open to experimental study for ethical reasons.”

p. 83 according to a recent Brookings report…


2013 study – http://atlanta.curbed.com/2013/7/23/10217118/study-atlanta-ranks-dead-last-in-upward-mobility

white families have 90 percent more wealth than African American families


less than 50 percent in U.S. have full-time employment - http://www.gallup.com/home.aspx?g_source=logo

chances of getting a job are one in five, one in ten after six months…


there’s a good chance you’ve been to college.http://projectonstudentdebt.org/files/pub/classof2012.pdf.

p. 85 More often, people with high NPI scores end up in business…

Judith Clark. “Therapist Narcissism.” Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 1991 Vol. 22, No. 2, 141-143.

67% of psychology studies are based…


I communicated this statistic incorrectly--it should read “college students in psychology classes comprise 67% of the subjects of studies.” In addition, the study in Behavioral and Brain Sciences found that 68 percent of all subjects are WEIRD (“westernized, educated people from industrialized, rich democracies”).