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Shy, but why? Vulnerable narcissism and avoidant personality in terms of explicit and implicit interpretation bias and social acceptance


Although vulnerable narcissism (VN) and avoidant personality (AP) share many characteristics, almost no research has been done to examine their differences. In this study, we examined the notion of VN and AP having similar overt presentations that stem from different underlying mechanisms. VN’s and AP’s relationships with explicit and implicit self-appraisals (i.e., interpretation biases, IB) were examined, under control/social acceptance conditions. Under the control condition, higher AP predicted negative explicit IB and no implicit IB, and higher VN showed the same trend. Following social acceptance, higher AP predicted negative explicit IB and positive implicit IB, whereas higher VN did not predict explicit IB, but predicted negative implicit IB. Results partly supported the hypotheses, and suggested that under neutral conditions, individuals tending towards AP or VN may present similarly. However, they differ in their response to positive social feedback, with AP benefiting from it, and VN having an increased negative implicit view of oneself. These results suggest that VN is a pathology of a more deeply disordered, unstable self-esteem, that may negatively respond to help efforts of positive affirmations made by others.

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Fig. 1


  1. The same criteria remained in DSM-5

  2. SDS was used as one of the screening variables to make sure data are valid. This screening criterion had no effect on the results.


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The authors would like to thank Prof. Avi Kluger from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem for his invaluable assistance with statistical advice for this manuscript.

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All authors contributed to the study conception, design, data collection and analysis. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Michal Weiss and revised by Jonathan Huppert. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Michal Weiss.

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All participants in this study signed an informed consent form before participation, as required in research that involves human participants.

This study was performed in line with the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki. Approval was granted by the Ethics Committee of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Fab5, 2013).

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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The authors have no relevant financial or non-financial interests to disclose.

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Weiss, M., Huppert, J.D. Shy, but why? Vulnerable narcissism and avoidant personality in terms of explicit and implicit interpretation bias and social acceptance. Curr Psychol 42, 21151–21163 (2023).

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