Sunday, June 8, 2014

What do we call people who think they can make narcissists care? Naive narcissists?

I wrote the title of this blog post with some degree of jest, of course, but it is puzzling to think that such claims are being made without the right kind of data. 

The Atlantic Monthly reported on a new study titled, 'How to make the narcissist in your life a little nicer.'  

Hepper thinks that eventually, this research could help shape therapeutic interventions aimed at narcissists. Teachers or human resources representatives could use such tools to try to get their resident egomaniacs to be more charitable.
Perhaps one day we can banish all the world’s narcissists to a desert island littered with tanning beds and TV cameras. Until that day, this type of compassion training might be the best weapon we have against the self-absorbed. As Hepper said, maybe it can help make the world “a nicer, more prosocial place.”

The reporter is pushing a study that is based on 'volunteers' -- i.e., a self-select population, which for whatever reason believes it has narcissistic tendencies and is willing to be introspective, to be taught, and to undergo interventions. The outcomes evaluated sound different from the original objectives and original outcome definitions. The numbers reported also don't mean anything to me because I do not know how to compare them to positive and negative controls. (I bet each one of us has some degree of narcissism; otherwise it would be impossible to look out for ourselves and our progeny. How we keep our degree of narcissism under check and in balance is probably reflective of our ability to be introspective and self-critical.) 

True narcissists will not believe or declare themselves to be narcissists. They are smooth-operating sociopaths. My experience has been that the only way to make them all 'nicer' is just to run away from them.  Far, far away from them.

I don't know whether media people are naive or subject matter experts/academics oversell themselves and inflate the significance of their studies with a finality most studies don't deserve.  But as I learned from my pit bull study experience, if a scientist tries to elaborate with care and with equal degree of attention to the strengths as well as the limitations of their study, the study will be used to support both sides of the argument even if there was considerable emphasis on what the findings mean given the context of the study environment.        

In the context of narcissism, has anyone ever considered this: Is it really possible to make narcissists nicer?  And if we believe we can do exactly that, is it at all possible that we too may be full of delusions about our own abilities to change this world?

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