The Distinctiveness Model of the Narcissistic Subtypes (DMNS): What Binds and Differentiates Grandiose and Vulnerable Narcissism

  • Stephanie D. FreisEmail author


Grandiose narcissists (GN) and vulnerable narcissists (VN) share traits of self-absorption, entitlement, and callousness but differ in self-esteem and confidence (i.e., high in GN but low in VN). Historical emphasis on the importance of self-enhancement, or maintaining high self-esteem, in narcissism theory places VN at a crossroads. Although some researchers view self-esteem as the primary feature defining the narcissistic subtypes (e.g., Rose, Pers Ind Diff 33:379–391, 2002), others use self-esteem to question if VN should be categorized as a narcissism subtype (e.g., Morf and Rhodewalt, Psychol Inquiry 12:177–196, 2001). To tackle this conceptual confusion, this chapter outlines the Distinctiveness Model of the Narcissistic Subtypes (DMNS). This motivational model builds on current trait-based theories in order to examine how GN and VN are similar enough to both be considered narcissistic but also different enough to be labeled as separate subtypes. Specifically, the DMNS proposes that GN and VN share a particularly strong need to differentiate themselves from others and be seen as distinct or “special.” However, the subtypes differ in how they orient to this motivation: whereas GN are promotion-focused in their need for distinctiveness, VN are prevention-focused. This leads GN to concentrate on gains and seek new opportunities to become more distinct. In contrast, VN worry about suffering losses and thus remain vigilant to defend against diminishing specialness. This chapter (a) concentrates on empirical evidence for the DMNS, (b) explores how this model can explain past findings, and (c) discusses the new predictions this model can make in narcissism literature.


Grandiose narcissism Vulnerable narcissism Distinctiveness Motivation 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Presbyterian CollegeClintonUSA

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