The researchers analyzed the gender differences in narcissism across more than 300 "journal articles, dissertations, manuscripts and technical manuals."
In January, we reported on a study by researchers at Ohio State University who found that men who regularly post pictures of themselves on social media score higher on measures of narcissism and psychopathy than their peers. In particular, men who edited their selfies before posting were found to be the most narcissistic.
However, that study - published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences - did not compare data for men against data for women.
For the new study, which is published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, researchers from the University at Buffalo School of Management, NY, analyzed the gender differences in narcissism across more than 300 "journal articles, dissertations, manuscripts and technical manuals." Overall, the study took in 30 years of research and more than 475,000 participants.
In particular, the researchers focused on three aspects of narcissism:
The widest gender gap in the study was in entitlement, the authors report. They say this suggests that men are more likely than women to exploit others and that they feel a greater entitlement to certain privileges.
The second largest gender gap was in leadership/authority, which led the researchers to note that men "exhibit more assertiveness and desire for power" compared with women.
However, there was no significant gender difference in regards to exhibitionism, which suggests that men and women are likely to be equally as vain or self-absorbed.
Looking at data from college students for the period 1990-2013, the team reports it found no evidence of either gender becoming more or less narcissistic over time.
How is narcissism linked with gender stereotypes?
Previous research has found that personality differences such as narcissism are related to gender stereotypes and expectations.
For instance, lead author Emily Grijalva, PhD, assistant professor of organization and human resources, notes the lack of women in senior roles of leadership could be influenced by disparities in perceptions of femininity and leadership.
"Individuals tend to observe and learn gender roles from a young age, and may face backlash for deviating from society's expectations," she suggests. "In particular, women often receive harsh criticism for being aggressive or authoritative, which creates pressure for women, more so than for men, to suppress displays of narcissistic behavior."
Grijalva goes into more detail on her study in the video below:
How much of a problem is narcissism?
Grijalva explains the pros and cons of narcissism:
"Narcissism is associated with various interpersonal dysfunctions, including an inability to maintain healthy long-term relationships, unethical behavior and aggression. At the same time, narcissism is shown to boost self-esteem, emotional stability and the tendency to emerge as a leader. By examining gender differences in narcissism, we may be able to explain gender disparities in these important outcomes."
In 2014, Medical News Today reported on narcissism research by Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University, who said that "narcissism is problematic for both individuals and society. Those who think they are already great don't try to improve themselves. And narcissism is bad for society because people who are only thinking of themselves and their own interests are less helpful to others."
To that end, Bushman and colleagues at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy developed a test for narcissism that consisted simply of one question: "To what extent do you agree with this statement: 'I am a narcissist.'"