Wednesday, February 28, 2007

US students becoming more narcissistic

Not only are American students becoming dumber and more shallow, they are complementing this slide into tawdry vacuity with a healthy dose of narcissism:
NEW YORK --Today's college students are more narcissistic and self-centered than their predecessors, according to a comprehensive new study by five psychologists who worry that the trend could be harmful to personal relationships and American society.

"We need to stop endlessly repeating 'You're special' and having children repeat that back," said the study's lead author, Professor Jean Twenge of San Diego State University. "Kids are self-centered enough already."
Twenty-five years ago, conceit took a backseat to modesty. But in pretending to be in the land of Wobegon (a trait that evinces a woebegone society), the two have swapped places. Although it isn't intended to be funny, this curious excerpt sardonically is just that:
The researchers describe their study as the largest ever of its type and say students' NPI [Narcissitic Personality Inventory] scores have risen steadily since the current test was introduced in 1982. By 2006, they said, two-thirds of the students had above-average scores, 30 percent more than in 1982.
Heh, two-thirds of the students are above average! Hurray, most American kids have an above-average level of self-esteem!

An obsession with self is perpetuated everywhere. Reality TV and MySpace epitomize this. The sheer number of students at the university's main library who are staring at Facebook pages never ceases to amaze me.

The future speaks:
"People are worried about themselves -- but in the sense of where are they're [sic] going to find a place in the world," she said. "People want to look their best, have a good time, but it doesn't mean they're not concerned about the rest of the world."
Instead of assidious study and detailed fact-collection, we'll write on one another's online walls and comment on each other's photo albums. But we'll still make plenty of time to go and protest various people and events. We'll vote and we'll voice our opinions, more confident than ever that we are both correct and righteous!


Gary said...

I see this with my 17 year old stepdaughter and most of her friends. Narcissistic is only for starters...most of these young women are also snotty, confrontational, and untrustworthy. Oh yeah, you would not believe what they insist on when it comes to boyfriend or future husband material. He'd better make a pile of money, be great looking, hung like a porn star, worship the ground she walks on, and not expect cooking or cleaning to be part of her job description.

Anonymous said...

Is it any wonder why guys aren't getting married? Who wants to be married to a narcissistic individual like the ones described? I'd rather live in a cave. And it isn't just these college students, it seems many who are in their 20's and 30's are the same way, but more women than men, that is for sure (Then again, one of the most outstanding displays of arrogance I have ever seen was when I was out drinking after work and 2 guys in their 20's yelled at the batrender to, "Hurry the Fuck Up!" this was no dive either.) I see it all the time, rude, self-centered behavior, especially when I am out in a bar (I don't know why that is). They act like well, bitches, and they are catty, nasty-tempered, rude, etc... then complain that men don't respect them, how hard their life is, etc...
When I say "Please", "Thank You", "Yes Sir" or "Yes Ma'am (or Miss)" it is like I am speaking a foreign language. In any event being polite seems to work wonders these days. Are there that many rude people around?

crush41 said...

What both of you describe perpetuates itself on the other side of the gender aisle as well. What kind of man that Gary's stepdaughter desires is actually going to want to be with her?

The social settings anon describes are exactly the kind that are mostly going to attract the sort of people who like to operate in environs where people act the way he describes. It's a vicious circle. I'd rather live alone in my home instead of a cave, but I'd take to the cave with Socrates before turning myself over to the type of virago the article points to.

Gary said...

Not that I'm old... but when I was young guy back in the early-to-mid 80s I spent a fair amount time in bars. The two clods that anonymous describes are a couple of geniuses, I gotta say. If you want good service in a bar, you make sure that you take care of the bartender (or barmaid as the case may be) - you don't tell him or her to HTFU. Betcha those two spent a good long while wondering why they were getting so thirsty.

Anonymous said...

I'm a little disappointed that you didn't analyze their methodology. Locally I don't see a trend towards narcissism at all, and if you examine the data on volunteering, kids these days are more and more concerned about other people.

Taking what a few psychologists say immediately to heart doesn't say much for your critical thinking skills.

However, your blog (and, to some degree, mine) are examples of narcissism.

crush41 said...


I'm not able to escape the world that encases me.

But I'm not convinced that volunteer rates prove selfless magnanimity. They're beneficial for purposes of resume, they often allow lax-to-no real work ethic, and schools are increasingly incorporating them into curriculum (you can take geology or you can take [insert school's volunteer acronym here] and drive to an old folks' home to pour juice with your friends during fifth hour). They're also a way to avoid stricter punishment for misbehaving.

Anonymous said...

I'll admit that students' opportunity costs may have a lot to do increased volunteering. Good point.

There's another question which goes unasked: is narcissism necessarily a bad thing?

Self-consciousness produces independent thinking. People who think highly of themselves are more willing to discard the dogmas of the herd. I'm obviously narcissistic and I feel all the better for it.

It has yet to be shown that narcissism and charity, or any other "good" actions, are mutually exclusive.

Anonymous said...

Well, I think this article is definetly on the right track. My younger sister and all her friends and even my cousins are extremely narcissistic. My younger sister is so preoccuipied with her Myspace page and social life with other narcissistic friends that she has been in a Junior College for 6 years and no where near close to anything. I mean wake up. This is serious. How many pictures can you and your friends take of eachother before you realize you are still living at home with a crummy job and are nothing to brag about? I mean i'm worried about how I am going to take care of my parents when they retire and she is worrying about whether to have a 200 person wedding or where to go Friday night on a minimum wage job. I went to work with my cousin who is even more narcissistic and egotistic. I have to admit hes a decent guy but that part of his persoanlity is ridiculous. I see it on campus, in grad classes, in coffee shops, everywhere near college. I sometimes see it in myself (why i dont know, nothing to exceptional here), but I personally think it has to do with working. I worked like hell to get to college and graduate and then try to get to grad school. I think if all these people had more crummy jobs they would get a real dose or reality. I mean my grand parents and family went to WW2, KOREA, Vietnam, worked at places like IBM, Xerox, owned multiple companies and slowly moved up in the world and did some real work in their life. I am ashamed that my generation is this way. I really dont think we measue up to our predeccesors at all.

I know a vietnamese student (my age) from a dirt poor family with no luxeries in life make it to med school just to help her family. We had cars, allowances and what do we get? 1 out of 3 going to a University and 90 percent of my cousins becoming screw-ups. What is wrong with American culture?

Anonymous said...

I too see the narcissim in my 17-year old step daughter. To start with she eschews the pronouns us, and we for the pronouns me, and I. She regularly talks down to her mother. She seems to think that being a bright student somehow relieves her of common courtesy and respect. The best part is that she is obsessed with volunteering her time and help others. But you will never catch her volunteering around the house to throw a laod into the laundry, load or unload the dishwasher, or do anything that is not in her self-interest. Although she is 17 chronologically, she is more like 7 years old. She doesn't turn off lights, put things away, pick up after herself. Currently, she watns to follow her "passion" [sic] and spend $5K going on a junket to Guatamala. When I balked at the cost she said that I just don't understand her passion for volunteering. In proof-reading a hee bio for a college application, there was not one word about her family or her mother. The net of all of this is she does not do a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g that is not in her self-interest.