Narcissism and Response Validity: Do Individuals With Narcissistic Features Underreport Psychopathology?

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Narcissism is broadly described as a grandiose sense of self, feelings of entitlement, and a need for attention and admiration. Theorists have long suggested that to maintain an overly positive self-image, individuals with narcissistic features often self-enhance (Leary, 2007) and exhibit distorted (John & Robins, 1994) self-perceptions. Despite this theoretical link, little is known about its relationship to response style, particularly in regard to underreporting or defensiveness. Nevertheless, response style has been extensively studied in psychopathy, narcissism’s closest neighbor, due to concerns that psychopathic individuals may lack insight into their traits and/or may be unwilling to admit to perceived faults or difficulties. Given the limited research on this topic, we examined narcissism’s relation to response style in multiple samples (i.e., two undergraduate samples; one incarcerated sample) with several well-validated measures of response validity and narcissism. Across samples, the findings indicate that narcissism is not characterized by response invalidity, at least not in low-stakes research settings; in fact, vulnerable features of narcissism were found to be negatively associated with underreporting and a defensive response style. Implications for the present findings are discussed.

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