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Tilting at Windmills

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September 12, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

NARCISSISM....The LA Times reports today that celebrities are more narcissistic than average joes:

The average Narcissism Personality Inventory score of Americans as demonstrated in a previous study is 15.3 out of a possible 40. Celebrities averaged 17.8. Contrary to what occurs in the general population, women celebrities, across the board, were more narcissistic than males (19.26 versus 17.27). Musicians who have the highest skill level are the least narcissistic celebrity group, while reality television stars the least talented or skilled group are the most narcissistic.

"Female reality show contestants," Pinsky said, "are off the chart."

OK, I guess that's interesting about female reality show contestants though I don't quite know what to make of it but color me unimpressed on the general results. Celebrities only score two points higher than the general population on narcissism? Isn't that a remarkably restrained finding?

Kevin Drum 2:25 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (55)

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Celebrities only score two points higher than the general population on narcissism? Isn't that a remarkably restrained finding?

Won't know if the difference is "significant" unless there are more statistics given. Check for more information about the population distribution and then with a statistician.

Posted by: Dave Alway on September 12, 2006 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Where do you take the test? I'm dying to know what I'd score ;)

Posted by: kth on September 12, 2006 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

I think that "Liberal Hawks" would score the highest, just ahead of Bush worshipers like Al.

Posted by: Al's Mommy on September 12, 2006 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Where do bloggers stand? Better yet, commenters on blogs;>

Posted by: Martin on September 12, 2006 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

I think that "Liberal Hawks" would score the highest, just ahead of Bush worshipers like Al.

Heh. Yeah, and their findings for musicians don't square with my own extensive experience with same.

Posted by: shortstop on September 12, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Bush scored a 49 which coincidentally is also his IQ.

Posted by: razorboy on September 12, 2006 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

"Celebrities only score two points higher than the general population on narcissism? Isn't that a remarkably restrained finding?"

Perhaps the scale is logarithmic, like the Richter scale.

Posted by: Sisyphus on September 12, 2006 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

how does this test work? cause if it just acts things like "are you attractive?" and people gave honest answers, wouldn't celebrities be more "narcissistic" simply because they're clearly WAY more attractive than the average person? How does it isolate narcissism from an accurate appraisal of oneself?

Posted by: brian on September 12, 2006 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

"Female reality show contestants," Pinsky said, "are off the chart."

if it's only "possible" to get a '40', how can they be 'off the chart' ?

the English language is too stupid for words.

Posted by: cleek on September 12, 2006 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Bush scored a 49 which coincidentally is also his IQ.

Let's make a game of this.

Kevin, post a story about the periodic table of the elements, and see how long it takes for people to work it around to something negative about Bush.

Posted by: sportsfan79 on September 12, 2006 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

Dave: The sample size is apparently about 200 people. It's only semi-random. And the questionnaire consists of 40 yes/no questions. So I'd guess that the results are pretty far from significant.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on September 12, 2006 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps kevin,

It's a sign that Americans are...well you know...self centered.

"...color me unimpressed on the general results. Celebrities only score two points higher than the general population on narcissism? Isn't that a remarkably restrained finding?" - Kevin Drum

I wonder how CEO's come out?

Posted by: S Brennan on September 12, 2006 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

sportsfan, um, did you notice on the way in that this is a political blog? No? Football blogs are over that way, pal. Don't forget to wear your helmet. Remember Jerry Ford.

Posted by: shortstop on September 12, 2006 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Just reading your presentation here, Kevin, it appears that there are two types of people who entertain others. Those who do it with an unususal skill are not a great deal more narcisistic than average people.

But those who depend on simply being attractive to others because of their personality have to be really narcissistice to overcome the many rejections they are going to get if they repeatedly try to "be" entertaining. Their narcissim is actually a measure of their obliviousness to the opinions of others regarding how great they are.

Oh, Sportsfan 79 - isn't that a lot like Bush? Totally oblivious to the opinions of others because he knows how great he is? Relating that to the periodic table, the discovery of the densist ever matierial which does not react to anything else in reality should be called "Bush Narsisium."

Posted by: Rick B on September 12, 2006 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

Just reading your presentation here, Kevin, it appears that there are two types of people who entertain others. Those who do it with an unususal skill are not a great deal more narcisistic than average people.

Hmmm, good point, and may explain my odd experience with narcissistic musicians. The most intolerable ones aren't particularly good musicians, and can't stop talking about themselves as musicians. The truly talented and competent ones are just normal people.

Posted by: shortstop on September 12, 2006 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

What would be quite interesting is if they could predict who was going to be a celebrity and test them before and afterwards. Because it's pretty unclear if there is a causal relationship and if so which way it goes.

Posted by: Tlaloc on September 12, 2006 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

shortstop wrote:
sportsfan, um, did you notice on the way in that this is a political blog? No? Football blogs are over that way, pal. Don't forget to wear your helmet. Remember Jerry Ford.

I see, shortstop. What you're saying is that 100% of liberal politics consists of bashing Bush, and little else. Thanks for clearing that up.

Actually, you should surf some football blogs some time. Might do you good.

Posted by: sportsfan79 on September 12, 2006 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

Allan Holdsworth, considered by more than a few musicians to be the greatest guitarist of his generation (in a unique, self-taught rock-jazz vein), is one of the humblest and down-to-earth musicians I've ever had the pleasure of chatting up while he was dismantling his gear after a demo performance of the SynthAxe at my local university.

Fred Frith is also an exceptionally decent chap with a great sense of humor.

So nice to follow a genre of music where the highest-caliber guys imaginable playing-wise play small halls and enjoy bonding with their supporters.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 12, 2006 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

False modesty is an art form in Chinese culture i.e. "Please excuse my worthless son- he couldn't get a scholarship to Harvard so we have to pay for his education there.".

I have a feeling a few portion of the general population "gamed" the questionaires to be the ideal-non-narcissistic person they see themselves as.

Posted by: clone12 on September 12, 2006 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

Bush scored a 49 which coincidentally is also his IQ

And his resting heart rate.

Posted by: David in NY on September 12, 2006 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

Bush scored a 49 which coincidentally is also his IQ

And his resting heart rate.

Posted by: David in NY on September 12, 2006 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, I'd interpret this as revealing that average Americans are nearly as narcissistic as celebrities.

Posted by: latts on September 12, 2006 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

Celebrities only score two points higher than the general population on narcissism? Isn't that a remarkably restrained finding?

Well, I can't see how it applies to me, so it obviously doesn't matter. ;)

Posted by: Gregory on September 12, 2006 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

With musicians, it's about less than genre per se than it is about how art-focused the musicians are. Some of that has to do with genre, but not as a rule. I've known bar-band musicians who were legends in their own minds, whether they played jazz rock or something more inherently crowd-pleasing.

But when you're working at high levels and a large percentage of your audience are your musical peers, the intense amount of self-criticism this fosters can be a very healthy thing for a showman's ego ...

Jazz musicians are usually the best of all. They're working in a tradition and tend, as a group, to bestow great honor to the paragons of their field who they cannot help but emulate.

Of course, there are always glaring exceptions like Miles Davis who was a legendary coke-fueled misogynist asshole, but the world lives for exceptions ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 12, 2006 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

latts: Actually, I'd interpret this as revealing that average Americans are nearly as narcissistic as celebrities.

I fear you are correct.

Posted by: shortstop on September 12, 2006 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

Al Franken may have been bad for naming a decade after himself, but honestly dont you think Bush considers himself the greatest president ever When he roams the halls of the WH at night, he gives advice to Lincoln.

His eyes have seen the glory of the leaving of the Gored;
He is stumbling through the vineyards where his grapes of wrath were poured;
He has loosed the fearful lightning of his terrible swift boat sword;
The Truth is what he says.
Glory! Glory! Whats it to ya? Glory! Glory! Whats it to ya?
Glory! Glory! Whats it to ya? The truth is what he says!

I have seen him in the neon of a hundred megachurch;
They have builded him a bubble, so the news wont make him lurch;
I can hear his righteous babble, from his high and lofty perch.
The Truth is what he says.
Glory! Glory! Whats it to ya? Glory! Glory! Whats it to ya?
Glory! Glory! Whats it to ya? The truth is what he says!

I have read a hokey bio writ in threads of the whole cloth;
He is covering up his decades of decadence and sloth;
Born of a cruel women, you must take what he has wroth.
The Truth is what he says.
Glory! Glory! Whats it to ya? Glory! Glory! Whats it to ya?
Glory! Glory! Whats it to ya? The truth is what he says!

He has called us all to battle that will never ever cease;
He is sifting out the words of those who never seem to please;
We all must do his duty tho our bodies be released.
The Truth is what he says.
Glory! Glory! Whats it to ya? Glory! Glory! Whats it to ya?
Glory! Glory! Whats it to ya? The truth is what he says!

In the ruins of West Texas, he was born again, you see;
With a flashback in his temple that ignores both you and me;
As we die to make him noble, let us live to let him be.
The Truth is what he says.
Glory! Glory! Whats it to ya? Glory! Glory! Whats it to ya?
Glory! Glory! Whats it to ya? The truth is what he says!

He is coming with a vengeance to decide just who is brave;
He is knowledge to the feeble, he is honor to the naive;
So the world should be his footstool, we must all just be his slaves.
The Truth is what he says.
Glory! Glory! Whats it to ya? Glory! Glory! Whats it to ya?
Glory! Glory! Whats it to ya? The truth is what he says!

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O in 08! on September 12, 2006 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

I would bet that people who comment on blogs would be at least 10 points higher than "average joes".

Posted by: DR on September 12, 2006 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Hard to say what any of this means, unless we see some distributions and definitions.

After all, if Brad Pitt or Jessica Simpson answer a question like "Are you good looking?" on a test survey, answering "Yes" is hardly evidence of subjective narcicism, more like honesty. (In a sense, more humble and realistic than either of them thinking they got where they are based on talent and hard work alone.)

As for reality show contestants, they aren't a random sample of the population, they are chosen by show developers - and likely chosen for their potential for interpersonal conflict and confidence of expression in front of a camera.

Posted by: Fides on September 12, 2006 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

And trolls would be 15 points higher.

Posted by: DR on September 12, 2006 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

I can't believe that this line:
Contrary to what occurs in the general population, women celebrities, across the board, were more narcissistic than males
has gone uncommented.

Says who that in the general population, men are more narcissistic than women? Them's fighting words!

Posted by: craigie on September 12, 2006 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, post a story about the periodic table of the elements, and see how long it takes for people to work it around to something negative about Bush.

Good idea, that would be fun.

What you fail to realize, sporty spice, is that Bush and his incredible incompetence and mendacity are the big, er, elephant in the room, no matter what we are talking about.

Posted by: craigie on September 12, 2006 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

Them's fighting words!

Pugilistic! I'm sure they meant you're more pugilistic!

Posted by: shortstop on September 12, 2006 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

sportsfan79: "Kevin, post a story about the periodic table of the elements, and see how long it takes for people to work it around to something negative about Bush."

Why wait for the post?

On behalf of special business interests, the White House's resident clown is the first president to legally subvert the validity of scientific knowledge and research on myriad numbers of issues, from stem-cell research to global warming. His administration even lied to the public about air quality standards at New York's "Ground Zero", in order to keep rescue and clean-up workers at the site.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on September 12, 2006 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

Pugilistic! I'm sure they meant you're more pugilistic!

That's not true! I've never even kissed a man!

Posted by: craigie on September 12, 2006 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

Periodic table of the elements and Bush.

* Bush's brain is made of Lead and deprived of Oxygen.
* Bush's foreign policy = hydrogen. Lighter than air, and likely to burst into flame.
* When Bush first heard of the periodic table, he thought there was a buffet there every Sunday.

Georgie tried to be a chemist,
but now Georgie is no more
For what Georgie thought was H20
Was H2SO4.

Posted by: Fides on September 12, 2006 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

Did you also notice the LA Times story about the sun rising in the east?

Posted by: Yancey Ward on September 12, 2006 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

Anybody who puts forth a public persona more separate from who they really are than the norm is going to be vulnerable to both narcissism and charges of narcissism. Retail workers, service reps, teachers, first responders all have public faces just as assuredly as do actors and celebrities. Some professions demand a degree of narcissism to be successful, like trial lawyers and salespeople.

But there are also nebbishes who sit in office cubicles all day, dreaming of annihilating their boss -- like Milton in Office Space. I don't think any profession has a monopoly on the potential for delusions of grandeur.

As for the "average person" not thrust in a public role every day? Well, they might have less opportunities to *express* narcissism -- but that doesn't mean it isn't there, necessarily. We live in a highly emulative culture smothered in images of consumer products and the celebrities who love and endorse them. To the extent we identify ourselves with our toys is the extent we leach away the true self. MTV has a show called Cribs where homeboys who scored on the hip hop charts can show off the lifestyle of arbitrageurs ...

Nobody's immune to this. And bloggers (and commenters) are a little like lawyers and salespeople in this respect.

Trolls, of course, are more like Milton :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 12, 2006 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

You don't know what you're missing, monsieur le craigie.

Careful, Fides--Charlie's going to be all over you for your "POTUS-threatening" po-em. Ring the NSA! The FBI! The federal marshals!

Posted by: shortstop on September 12, 2006 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

I see, shortstop. What you're saying is that 100% of liberal politics consists of bashing Bush, and little else.

Where would Bush apologists be without straw man arguments?

Besides, what's wrong with bashing Bush? The American people have figured out what a mendacious, incompetent, feckless sorry excuse for a President he is, and they'll never trust him again. You're one of the dead-enders, sportsfan, but your rhetoric aimed at de-legitimizing well-deserved criticism of Bush is so five years ago. That dog won't hunt anymore.

Posted by: Gregory on September 12, 2006 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

Fides! Compadre! I thought I was the only one left who remembered that old chestnut.

Posted by: Yellow Dog on September 12, 2006 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

I would think that Lyin' Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame are off the charts for narcissism. How is that frog-march thing going for them? Is it true that her book deal fell through? Poor dear.

Posted by: nikkolai on September 12, 2006 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, post a story about the periodic table of the elements, and see how long it takes for people to work it around to something negative about Bush.

Okay...

Bushs brain is lighter than (1) hydrogen or (2) helium; he needs (3) lithium for his mood disorders; his bubble shield is lined with (4) beryllium; like (5) boron, Bushs compassion is never found free in nature; (6) carbon and (8) oxygen combined form the most valuable substance to come out of Bushs mouth when he opens it; like the bullshit that comes out of Bush's mouth when he speaks, (8) nitrogen makes a good fertilizer...

I can do this all day, you know - there are 116 confirmed elements.

Posted by: Reprobate on September 12, 2006 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

Nitrogen is #7. Sorry.

Posted by: Reprobate on September 12, 2006 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, post a story about the periodic table of the elements, and see how long it takes for people to work it around to something negative about Bush.

Man, get with times -- bashing Bush is a national sport, in case you haven't noticed. Listen much to late night comics?

Hell, birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it.

Posted by: frankly0 on September 12, 2006 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

Donald from Hawaii wrote: His administration even lied to the public about air quality standards at New York's "Ground Zero", in order to keep rescue and clean-up workers at the site.

Minor correction: in order to re-open Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange.

"As Richard Clarke has made clear, the order to reopen Lower Manhattan came directly from President Bush. And in his book, Against All Enemies, Richard Clarke says he was in the White House Situation Room when the President gave the order to the Treasury Secretary that he wanted Wall Street up and running within a week. And it was up and running within a week. And now, all of us are facing the consequences of that decision."
-- Journalist Juan Gonzalez, Democracy Now, 9/8/2006


Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 12, 2006 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin sez:

The sample size is apparently about 200 people. It's only semi-random. And the questionnaire consists of 40 yes/no questions. So I'd guess that the results are pretty far from significant.

You forgot to mention that the lead author of the study is celebrity "Dr. Drew", host/quack of the insipid radio show "Loveline". I'd say the study is next to worthless.

Posted by: Disputo on September 12, 2006 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK


Actually, I'd interpret this as revealing that average Americans are nearly as narcissistic as celebrities.


More likely evidence the average American thinks he's a celebrity.

Posted by: cld on September 12, 2006 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

I have to wonder if they included classical musicians, who are among the vainest and most narcissistic people I have ever met.

Posted by: Alexander Wolfe on September 12, 2006 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK

I have to wonder if they included classical musicians, who are among the vainest and most narcissistic people I have ever met.

The celebs polled were guests on the sex and drugs talk radio show "Loveline", w/ a target demographic of 12 - 24 year olds, so the answer to that would be, "no".

Posted by: Disputo on September 12, 2006 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK

narcissism?

narcissism?

narcissism?

Heh heh hehHeh heh heh
Heh heh hehHeh heh heh
Heh heh hehHeh heh heh

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 12, 2006 at 8:56 PM | PERMALINK

As opposed to the mature humility redolent of serial spoofery with no parodic content to speak of.

Nope. No ego issues *there* :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 12, 2006 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: mms on September 13, 2006 at 12:04 AM | PERMALINK

I would think that Lyin' Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame are off the charts for narcissism.

You'd be wrong. Not surprising.

Posted by: Irony Man on September 13, 2006 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK
OK, I guess that's interesting about female reality show contestants though I don't quite know what to make of it but color me unimpressed on the general results. Celebrities only score two points higher than the general population on narcissism?

No, it doesn't seem impressive or particularly interesting. What is mildly interesting is the time you apparently spend combing through newspapers to find insignificant stories that you can post on this blog and go "Look! Look at this! Its not really significant!"

I mean, what, is it somekind of effort you are making to get people to tune out, or what?

Posted by: cmdicely on September 13, 2006 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

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