Narcissism and Reactions to a Self-Esteem Insult: An Experiment Using Predictions from Self-Report and the Rorschach Task

J Pers Assess. 2021 Sep-Oct;103(5):621-633. doi: 10.1080/00223891.2020.1848854. Epub 2020 Dec 3.


We used self-reported narcissistic grandiosity and vulnerability and a component derived from 11 potential grandiosity and narcissism variables (GNVs) coded from Rorschach behavior to predict fluctuations in self-esteem and their links to anger and defensive reactions. We assessed state mood, state self-esteem, and performance attributions in 105 college students who underwent a self-esteem manipulation involving success followed by failure on cognitive testing. Self-reported grandiosity predicted the disavowal of effortful ability as a factor in failure, but we did not replicate other previously reported findings for this variable. Self-reported vulnerability predicted oscillations in self-reported mood and self-esteem. The GNV scale predicted spontaneously expressed hostility and externalization following self-esteem insult, and attributions mediated its relationship with anger expressed after failure. We discuss implications of these results and recommend additional replication research.

MeSH terms

  • Anger
  • Hostility
  • Humans
  • Narcissism*
  • Self Concept*
  • Self Report