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Collective narcissism

Collective narcissism (or group narcissism) is a type of narcissism where an

individual has an inflated self-love of his or her own ingroup, where an "ingroup" is
a group in which an individual is personally involved.[1] While the classic
definition of narcissism focuses on the individual, collective narcissism asserts
that one can have a similar excessively high opinion of a group, and that a
group can function as a narcissistic entity.[1] Collective narcissism is related
to ethnocentrism; however, ethnocentrism primarily focuses on self-centeredness
at an ethnic or cultural level, while collective narcissism is extended to any
type of ingroup, beyond just cultures and ethnicities.[1][2] Some theorists believe
group-level narcissism to be an extension of individual narcissism, though
others believe the two to be independent of each other.




3Collective vs. individual

4The charismatic leader-follower relationship

5Intergroup aggression


7In the world

8See also


of the concept

Development of the concept

In Sigmund Freud's 1922 study Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, he noted
how every little canton looks down upon the others with contempt,[3] as an
instance of what would later to be termed Freud's theory of collective
narcissism.[4] Thereafter, Wilhelm Reich and Isaiah Berlin explored what the latter

called the rise of modern national narcissism: the self-adoration of peoples.

[5] "Group narcissism" is described in a 1973 book entitled The Anatomy of
Human Destructiveness by psychologist Erich Fromm.[6]
In the 1990s, Pierre Bourdieu wrote of a sort of collective narcissism affecting
intellectual groups, inclining them to turn a complacent gaze on themselves.
[7] The term "collective narcissism" was highlighted anew by researchers
Agnieszka Golec de Zavala, Aleksandra Cichocka, Roy Eidelson, and Nuwan
Jayawickreme in 2009 in their study "Collective Narcissism and its Social
Noting how people's desire to see their own groups as better than other groups
can lead to intergroup bias, Henri Tajfel approached the same phenomena in the
seventies and eighties, so as to create social identity theory, which argues that
people's motivation to obtain positive self-esteem from their group
memberships is one driving-force behind in-group bias.[8]

Collective narcissism is characterized by the members of a group holding an
inflated view of their ingroup.[1] It is important to note that collective narcissism
can be exhibited by an individual on behalf of a group or by a group as a whole.
[1] Fundamentally, however, collective narcissism always has some tie to the
individuals who make up a narcissistic group.[1] Collectively narcissistic groups
require external validation, just as individual narcissists do.[9] Organizations and
groups who exhibit this behavior typically try to protect their identities through
rewarding group-building behavior (this is positive reinforcement).[9] According to
Golec de Zavala and colleagues, collective is an alternative form of narcissism,
not altogether connected to individual, where most characteristics of individual
narcissism apply, but are manipulated to include the word "group" where "self"
might be found. Golec de Zavala et al. state some parallels between individual
and collective narcissism:
Individual/Collective Narcissism Equivalencies[1]
I wish people would recognize my authority

I wish other people would recognize the

authority of my group

I have natural talent for influencing people

My group has all predispositions to influence


If I ruled the world it would be a much better


If my group ruled the world it would be a much

better place

I am an extraordinary person

My group is extraordinary

I like to be the center of attention

I like when my group is the center of attention

I will never be satisfied until I get what I deserve

I will never be satisfied until my group gets all

that it deserves

I insist upon getting the respect that is due to me

I insist upon my group getting the respect that is

due to it

I want to amount to something in the eyes of the I want my group to amount to something in the
eyes of the world

People never give me enough recognition for the Not many people seem to understand the full
things I've done
importance of my group

Collective vs. individual

There are several connections, and intricate relationships between collective
and individual narcissism, or between individual narcissism stemming from
group identities or activities. No single relationship between groups and
individuals, however, is conclusive or universally applicable. In some cases,
collective narcissism is an individual's idealization of the ingroup to which it
belongs,[10] while in another the idealization of the group takes place at a more
group-level, rather than an instillation within each individual member of the
group.[1] In some cases, one might project the idealization of himself onto his
group,[11] while in another case, the development of individual-narcissism might
stem from being associated with a prestigious, accomplished, or extraordinary
An example of the first case listed above is that of national identity. One might
feel a great sense of love and respect for one's nation, flag, people, or
governmental systems as a result of a collectively narcissistic perspective.[10] It
must be remembered that these feelings are not explicitly the result of
collective narcissism, and that collective narcissism is not explicitly the cause
of patriotism, or any other group-identifying expression. However, glorification of
one's group (such as a nation) can be seen in some cases as a manifestation of
collective narcissism.[10]
In the case where the idealization of self is projected onto ones group, grouplevel narcissism tends to be less binding than in other cases.[11] Typically in this
situation the individualalready individually narcissisticuses a group to
enhance his own self-perceived quality, and by identifying positively with the
group and actively building it up, the narcissist is enhancing simultaneously
both his own self-worth, and his groups worth.[11] However, because the link
tends to be weaker, individual narcissists seeking to raise themselves up
through a group will typically dissociate themselves from a group they feel is
damaging to their image, or that is not improving proportionally to the amount
of support they are investing in the group.[11]
Involvement in one's group has also been shown to be a factor in the level of
collective narcissism exhibited by members of a group. Typically a more
involved member of a group is more likely to exhibit a higher opinion of the
group.[13] This results from an increased affinity for the group as one becomes
more involved, as well as a sense of investment or contribution to the success
of the group.[13] Also, another perspective asserts that individual narcissism is
related to collective narcissism exhibited by individual group members.
[2] Personal narcissists, seeing their group as a defining extension of
themselves, will defend their group (collective narcissism) more avidly than a
non-narcissist, to preserve their own perceived social standing along with their
group's.[2] In this vein, a problem is presented; for while an individual narcissist
will be heroic in defending his or her ingroup during intergroup conflicts, he or she
may be a larger burden on the ingroup in intragroup situations by
demanding admiration, and exhibiting more selfish behavior on the intragroup
levelindividual narcissism.[2]

Conversely, another relationship between collective narcissism and the

individual can be established with individuals who have a low or damaged ego
investing their image in the well-being of their group, which bears strong
resemblance to the "ideal-hungry" followers in the charismatic leader-follower
relationship.[1][14] As discussed, these ego-damaged group-investors seek solace
in belonging to a group;[14]however, a charismatic, strong leader is not always
requisite for someone weak to feel strength by building up a narcissistic opinion
of their own group.[11]

The charismatic leader-follower relationship

Another sub-concept encompassed by collective narcissism is that of the
"Charismatic Leader-Follower Relationship" theorized by political
psychologist Jerrold Post.[14] Post takes the view that collective narcissism is
exhibited as a collection of individual narcissists, and discusses how this type of
relationship emerges when a narcissistic charismatic leader, appeals to
narcissistic "ideal-hungry" followers.[14]
An important characteristic of the leader follower-relationship are the
manifestations of narcissism by both the leader and follower of a group.
[14] Within this relationship there are two categories of narcissists: the mirrorhungry narcissist, and the ideal-hungry narcissistthe leader and the followers
respectively.[14] The mirror-hungry personality typically seeks a continuous flow
of admiration and respect from his followers. Conversely, the ideal-hungry
narcissist takes comfort in the charisma and confidence of his mirror-hungry
leader. The relationship is somewhat symbiotic; for while the followers provide
the continuous admiration needed by the mirror-hungry leader, the leader's
charisma provides the followers with the sense of security and purpose that
their ideal-hungry narcissism seeks.[14] Fundamentally both the leader and the
followers exhibit strong collectively narcissistic sentimentsboth parties are
seeking greater justification and reason to love their group as much as
Perhaps the most significant example of this phenomenon would be that of
Nazi Germany.[14] Adolf Hitler's charisma and polarizing speeches satisfied the
German people's hunger for a strong leader.[14]Hitler's speeches were
characterized by their emphasis on "strength"referring to Germanyand
"weakness"referring to the Jewish people.[15] Some have even described
Hitler's speeches as "hypnotic"even to non-German speakers[14]and his
rallies as "watching hypnosis on large scale".[14] Hitler's charisma convinced the
German people to believe that they were not weak, and that by destroying the
perceived weakness from among them (the Jews), they would be enhancing
their own strengthsatisfying their ideal-hungry desire for strength, and
pleasing their mirror-hungry charismatic leader.[14]

Intergroup aggression
Collective narcissism has been shown to be a factor in intergroup aggression
and bias.[1] Primary components of collectively narcissistic intergroup relations
involve aggression against, and perceived threat from, outgroups with which
the narcissistic ingroup has frequent interaction.[1] Collective narcissism helps

to explain unreasonable manifestations of retaliation between groups. A

narcissistic group is more sensitive to perceived criticism exhibited by outgroups,
and is therefore more likely to retaliate.[16] Collective narcissism is also related
to negativity between groups who share a history of distressing experiences.
This intergroup callousness is the result of an unforgiving narcissistic party.
[1] For example, one might consider gang-violence and inter-gang aggression
highly collectively narcissistic. Gangs are typically ultra-sensitive to perceived
outward negativism.
It is common for narcissistic ingroups to have an unstable high group self-esteem.
[1] Because of this instability, narcissistic groups are especially prone to
perceived negativity towards themselves. The members of a narcissistic
ingroup are likely to assume threats or negativity towards their ingroup where
threats or negativity were not necessarily implied or exhibited.[1] It is thought
that this heightened sensitivity to negative feelings towards the ingroup is a
result of underlying doubts about the greatness of the ingroup held by its
members.[14] These perceived threats result in a damaged collective selfesteem, which is associated with increased intergroup aggression. [17]
Similar to other elements of collective narcissism, intergroup aggression
related to collective narcissism draws parallels with its individually narcissistic
counterparts. An individual narcissist might react aggressively in the presence
of humiliation, irritation, or anything threatening to his self-image.[18] Likewise, a
collective narcissist, or a collectively narcissistic group might react aggressively
when the image of the group is in jeopardy, or when the group is collectively
humiliated.[1] On this point, Golec de Zavala et al. argue that collective
narcissismand not individual narcissismis really responsible for intergroup
aggression.[1] This is to say that while the narcissism of an individual may
govern the link between narcissism and interpersonal aggression on the
individual level, that analogously, collective narcissism solely governs the link
between collective narcissism and intergroup aggression at the group-level.
A study conducted among 6-9 year-olds by Judith Griffiths indicated that
ingroups and outgroups among these children functioned relatively identical to
other known collectively narcissistic groups in terms of intergroup aggression.
The study noted that children generally had a significantly higher opinion of
their ingroup than of surrounding outgroups, and that such ingroups indirectly
or directly exhibited aggression on surrounding outgroups.[19]

Main article: Ethnocentrism
Collective narcissism and ethnocentrism are closely related; they can be
positively correlated and often shown to be coexistent, but they are
independent in that either can exist without the presence of the other.[2] In a
study conducted by PhD Boris Bizumic, some ethnocentrism was shown to be
an expression of group-level narcissism.[2] It was noted, however, that not all
manifestations of ethnocentrism are narcissistically based, and conversely, not
all cases of group-level narcissism are by any means ethnocentric.[2]
It is suggested that ethnocentrism, when pertaining to discrimination or
aggression based on the self-love of one's group, or in other words, based on

exclusion from one's self-perceived superior group is an expression of collective

narcissism.[1] In this sense, it might be said the collective and group narcissism
overlap with ethnocentrism depending on given definitions, and the breadth of
their acceptance.

In the world
In general, collective narcissism is most strongly manifested in groups that are
"self-relevant", like religions, nationality, or ethnicity.[11] As discussed earlier,
phenomena such as national identity (nationality) and Nazi Germany (ethnicity
and nationality) are manifestations of collective narcissism among groups that
critically define the people who belong to them.
In addition to this, collective narcissism that may already exist among a group
is likely to be exacerbated during conflict and aggression.[1] And in terms of
cultural effects, cultures that place an emphasis on the individual are
apparently more likely to see manifestations of perceived individual
greatness projected onto social ingroups existing within that culture.[1] Also, and
finally, narcissistic groups are not restricted to any one homogenous
composition of collective or individually collective or individual narcissists.[2] A
quote from Hitler almost ideally sums the actual nature of collective narcissism
as it is realistically manifested, and might be found reminiscent of almost every
idea presented here: "My group is better and more important than other
groups, but still is not worthy of me".[2]