When evaluating someone as a potential social acquaintance, people prefer affiliative, pleasant individuals. This necessitates the evolution of perceptual acuity in distinguishing between genuinely prosocial traits and those connoting exploitative intentions. Such intentions can be readily inferred through facial structures connoting personality, even in the absence of other diagnostic cues. We sought to explore how self-reported narcissism, a personality constellation associated with inflated self-views and exploitative intentions, might facilitate one’s ability to detect narcissism in others’ faces as means of identifying social targets who could best satisfy potential exploitative goals. Participants viewed pairs of male and female targets manipulated to connote high and low levels of narcissism before identifying which appeared more narcissistic and indicating their preference among each pair. Narcissistic individuals were no better at accurately identifying other narcissists, but such individuals demonstrated considerable aversion to narcissistic faces. Women higher in exploitative narcissism additionally preferred narcissistic female faces, while men high in exploitative narcissism demonstrated similar patterns of aversion toward narcissistic male faces. Findings provide evidence that narcissistic individuals may adaptively avoid those whom they identify as having similar exploitative behavior repertoire, though when considering the exploitive dimension of narcissism specifically, sex differences emerged.
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When analyzing grandiose and vulnerable narcissism separately with target sex preference, both models revealed an interaction between narcissism type and target sex (preference/grandiose: F(1,336) = 7.911, p = 0.005, η2p = 0.023; preference/vulnerable: F(1,336) = 8.918, p = 0.016, η2p = 0.017). These interactions were driven by both higher vulnerable and grandiose narcissism predicting reduced preference for male narcissism (vulnerable: r(340) = − 0.097, p = 0.075; grandiose: r(340) = − 0.131, p = 0.016), but no relation to female narcissism preferences. Given the correlation between grandiose and vulnerable narcissism (r = 0.68) and the fact that they predict narcissism preferences similarly, we report analyses using the full-scale PNI in text. Further, grandiose and vulnerable narcissism were unrelated to narcissism detection accuracy (Fs < 0.635, ps > 0.426).
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Medlin, M.M., Sacco, D.F. & Brown, M. The Relation Between Narcissistic Personality Traits and Accurate Identification of, and Preference for, Facially Communicated Narcissism. Evolutionary Psychological Science 6, 166–173 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40806-019-00224-x
- Face perception
- Personality preference
- Evolutionary psychology