Holger Vogel/Foto Studio West

Among other topics, psychologist Katrin Rentzsch conducts research into hubris and narcissism.

I love myself!

The University of Bamberg’s psychological studies on modern forms of narcissism

The more dismissively narcissists treat others, the more they are in turn rejected by their fellow human beings.  One psychological study has confirmed the so-called “tit-for-tat” hypothesis as it relates to narcissism. Privatdozent Dr. Katrin Retzsch of the University of Bamberg and Prof. Jochen E. Gebauer of the Universities of Mannheim and Copenhagen began their study nearly ten years ago. They published their findings in the journal “Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin” in 2019.

The researchers sought to answer the question of whether agentic or communal narcissists are more popular. Agentic narcissists are people with an inflated sense of self-worth and who often consider themselves to be more intelligent, more competent or more decisive than others. For this reason, they condescend to those around them. Communal narcissists, however, overestimate their own social competence. These narcissists might, for example, say of themselves, “I am the best friend a person could have.” They claim to be fond of others, even when their behaviour towards them is not necessarily friendly.

A research project with nearly 500 students

Between 2010 and 2013, a total of 474 psychology students at the Humboldt University of Berlin participated in the study. Participants, who were in their first semester of bachelor’s studies, prepared a self-description that was used by the researchers to determine each individual’s level of narcissism. In the following weeks, the students were divided into seminar groups in which they worked together to complete specific tasks. Afterwards, the students recorded their perceptions of one another. “The stronger a person’s agentic traits, the more dismissive he was of fellow students, and the more he was also met with dismissive behaviour from others,” explains Katrin Rentzsch. By contrast, however, communal narcissists had overestimated their own positive impression on the others: “Their fellow students showed only an average level of fondness for them.”

The emergence of narcissism

Questions of how narcissism develops and when it becomes destructive have been research topics at the University of Bamberg for years. “Like many personality traits, narcissism also has a genetic component – it’s partially hereditary,” says Prof. Astrid Schütz, Chair of Personality Psychology and Psychological Assessment. “Aside from this, parental behaviour is also a significant factor.” Parents can stimulate agentic narcissism by excessively coddling their children. “Particularly in individualistic cultures like here in Germany, people occasionally inflate their children’s status to that of superstars, princesses or bosses,” says Schütz.

Detailed information on narcissism can be found in the article titled  Ich liebe nur: MICH (My one true love: ME) in the current issue of the University of Bamberg’s “uni.vers” magazine: www.uni-bamberg.de/univers-forschung/2019

Recent publication on narcissism:
Katrin Rentzsch und Jochen E. Gebauer. 2019. On the popularity of agentic and communal narcissists: The tit-for-tat hypothesis, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, doi: 10.1177/0146167218824359

Further information for media representatives:

Contact for content-related queries:
PD Dr. Katrin Rentzsch
Research Assistant, Personality Psychology and Psychological Assessment
Tel.: 0951/863-1874

Prof. Dr. Astrid Schütz
Chair of Personality Psychology and Psychological Assessment
Tel.: 0951/863-1870

Media contact:
Patricia Achter
Press Officer
Tel.: 0951/863-1146