Northern Ireland news

Narcissists may perform better at school

340 young people were recruited from three different Italian high schools

THE growing rate of narcissism in society could be linked to high school achievement, a study has found.

A researcher at Queen's University Belfast has suggested that adolescents who demonstrate entitlement and superiority may be more mentally tough and can perform better at school.

Mental toughness has been associated with strong academic performance, and positively associated with narcissism.

Dr Kostas Papageorgiou from Queen's School of Psychology was part of an international collaboration that included academics from Britain, Russia and the US.

The study was the first to explore the association between mental toughness, narcissism and achievement in a sample of 14-19 year olds.

Almost 350 pupils from Italian high schools took part in online questionnaires and maths and language tests during high school.

Researchers found that narcissism "exerted a significant positive indirect effect on school achievement".

Dr Papageorgiou said studies indicated that narcissism was a growing trend.

"In our research, we focused on subclinical or `normal' narcissism. Subclinical narcissism includes some of the same features of clinical syndrome - grandiosity, entitlement, dominance, and superiority," Dr Papageorgiou said.

"If you are a narcissist you believe strongly that you are better than anyone else and that you deserve reward. Being confident in your own abilities is one of the key signs of grandiose narcissism and is also at the core of mental toughness. If a person is mentally tough, they are likely to embrace challenges and see these as an opportunity for personal growth."

Dr Papageorgiou's research suggested that narcissism might be a positive attribute.

"People who score high on subclinical narcissism may be at an advantage because their heightened sense of self-worth may mean they are more motivated, assertive, and successful in certain contexts," he said.

"Research in our lab has shown that subclinical narcissism may increase mental toughness. If an individual scores high on mental toughness this means they can perform at their very best in pressured and diverse situations."

The research suggested that the relationship between narcissism and mental toughness could lead to variation in school achievement.

"It is important that we reconsider how we, as a society, view narcissism," Dr Papageorgiou added.

"We perceive emotions or personality traits as being either bad or good but psychological traits are the products of evolution; they are neither bad nor good – they are adaptive or maladaptive. Perhaps we should expand conventional social morality to include and celebrate all expressions of human nature."

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