Narcissism is the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one's idealized self image and attributes. The term originated from Greek mythology, where the young Narcissus fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water. Narcissism or pathological self-absorption was first identified as a disorder in 1898 by Havelock Ellis and featured in subsequent psychological models, e.g. in Freud's On Narcissism (1914). The American Psychiatric Association has listed the classification narcissistic personality disorder in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) since 1968, drawing on the historical concept of megalomania.
It is distinct from concepts of distinguishing the self (egocentrism or egoism) and from healthy forms of responsibility and care for oneself ("primary narcissism"). Narcissism by contrast is considered a problem for relationships with self and others and for maintaining a functional culture. In trait personality theory it features in several self-report personality inventories including the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory. It is one of the three dark triadic personality traits (the others being psychopathy and Machiavellianism).
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Some critics contend that pop culture has become more narcissistic in recent decades. This claim is supported by scholarship indicating some celebrities hire "fake paparazzi", the frequency with which "reality TV" programs populate the television schedules, and the growth of an online culture in which digital media, pop culture has become more narcissistic in recent decades. This claim is supported by scholarship indicating some celebrities hire "fake paparazzi", the frequency with which "reality TV" programs populate the television schedules, and the growth of an online culture in which digital media, social media and the "will-to-fame" are generating a "new era of public narcissism [that] is mutating with new media forms." In this analysis, narcissism, rather than being the pathologized property of a discrete personality type, has been asserted as a constituent cultural feature of an entire generation since the end of World War II.
Supporting the contention that American culture has become more narcissistic and that this is increasingly reflected in its cultural products is an analysis of US popular song lyrics between 1987 and 2007. This found a growth in the use of first-person singular pronouns, reflecting a greater focus on the self, and also of references to antisocial behavior; during the same period, there was a diminution of words reflecting a focus on others, positive emotions, and social interactions. Similar patterns of change in cultural production are observable in other Western states. A linguistic analysis of the largest circulation Norwegian newspaper found that the use of self-focused and individualistic terms increased in frequency by 69 per cent between 1984 and 2005 while collectivist terms declined by 32 per cent. References to narcissism and self-esteem in American popular print media have experienced vast inflation since the late 1980s. Between 1987 and 2007 direct mentions of self-esteem in leading US newspapers and magazines increased by 4,540 per cent while narcissism, which had been almost non-existent in the press during the 1970s, was referred to over 5,000 times between 2002 and 2007.
Cross-cultural studies of differences in narcissism are rare. Instead, as there is a positive association between narcissism and individualism and a negative one between it and collectivism, these traits have been used as proxies for narcissism in some studies. This approach, however, risks the misapplication of the concepts of individualism and collectivism to create overly-fixed, "caricature-like", oppositional categories. Nonetheless, one study looked at differences in advertising products between an individualistic culture, America, and a collectivist one, South Korea. In American magazine advertisements, it found, there was a greater tendency to stress the distinctiveness and uniqueness of the person; conversely the South Korean ones stressed the importance of social conformity and harmony. This observation holds true for a cross-cultural analysis across a wide range of cultural outputs where individualistic national cultures produce more individualistic cultural products and collectivist national cultures produce more collectivist national products; these cultural effects were greater than the effects of individual differences within national cultures.