November 30, 2010
Exhibitionist Narcissists Most Likely To Cheat In College

College students with narcissistic traits are more likely to cheat.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – College students who exhibit narcissistic tendencies are more likely than fellow students to cheat on exams and assignments, a new study shows.

The results suggested that narcissists were motivated to cheat because their academic performance functions as an opportunity to show off to others, and they didn't feel particularly guilty about their actions.

"Narcissists really want to be admired by others, and you look good in college if you're getting good grades," said Amy Brunell, lead author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University at Newark.

"They also tend to feel less guilt, so they don't mind cheating their way to the top."

But narcissism is made up of a few components. It was the most strongly exhibitionist narcissists who were most likely to cheat. They wanted to draw attention to themselves with high grades.

"We found that one of the more harmless parts of narcissism -- exhibitionism -- is most associated with academic cheating, which is somewhat surprising," she said.

Exhibitionism is the desire to show off, to make yourself the center of attention.

The two other dimensions of narcissism -- the desire for power and the belief you are a special person -- were not as strongly linked to academic dishonesty.

I'd like to know what percentage of famous actors are narcissists. Are successful musicians more or less likely to be narcissists? With music part of the draw is the love of music. Another part, especially for guys, is getting laid. So exhibitionism might play a smaller role in motivating guys to become famous musical performers.

A variation of my standard question on genetics and human traits: Once offspring genetic engineering becomes feasible will parents choose more or less narcissistic children? Will future generations be more or less exhibitionist on average?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 November 30 06:51 PM  Brain Ethics Law

Fat Man said at November 30, 2010 8:48 PM:

Not if the psychiatrists have their way.

"Narcissism No Longer a Psychiatric Disorder" By TARA PARKER-POPE November 29, 2010

"Narcissistic personality disorder, characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance and the need for constant attention, has been eliminated from the upcoming manual of mental disorders, which psychiatrists use to diagnose mental illness."

Brett Bellmore said at December 1, 2010 3:47 AM:

It's not so much "the" psychiatrists, as it is the small clique in charge of the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders". They've been throwing diagnosis out left and right of late. (Soon they'll reduce it to "nuts", and will publish the DSM in a fortune cookie instead of book.) This one apparently on the theory that, if politicians and celebrities make a lot of money, being narcissistic can't be a personality disorder. As the story linked to itself notes, the change is not exactly popular with the psychiatric community.

Lono said at December 1, 2010 7:54 AM:

Yeah - well - as likely the most exhibitionist Narcissist who regularly participates here - I believe this study is pretty spot on.

Sometimes in college I surreptitiously copied other people's test answers, sometimes I dug code print outs from the Comp Lab trash can, and occasionally I let my girlfriend write a paper or two for me.

I actually don't feel any real guilt about it - as I was mostly only hurting myself in the process - since learning the information is what I was paying all that dang money for in the first place.

Social animals who have strong hierarchical societies tend to over reward such traits/behavior - so I can't really complain about the cards I was dealt - and most of you here already know about my other fortunate substantial endowment.

I do find it unfortunate that few Narcissists are as empathetic and intelligent as myself - but one day perhaps I will be in a position to help cure them of their unfortunate deficiencies…

Altruistic Narcissistic Exhibitionists FTW!!

doug said at December 1, 2010 9:30 AM:

Three comments so far on a post about the normalization of narcissism without anyone mentioning the elephant, er, donkey in the room. Remarkable. I suggest the theme of narcissism in politics as likely to be fertile soil for research.

Randall Parker said at December 1, 2010 6:59 PM:


You are making a mistake here:

I do find it unfortunate that few Narcissists are as empathetic and intelligent as myself - but one day perhaps I will be in a position to help cure them of their unfortunate deficiencies…

What, and cease to be so rare and unique and obviously superior to other narcissists?

Lono said at December 2, 2010 8:29 AM:


Dude - I just want some peers who I can relate to who aren't total a-holes - you'd think that wouldn't be too hard to ask for.

But no - empathetic visionary geniuses are far and few between.

(even in Mensa I have sadly found)

I count you, and some of the people on this board right up there, and perhaps Dean Kamen and a handful of others – but it’s like finding needles in a haystack – or perhaps – more aptly – finding painite in a mountain of dung.

Uplifting others sounds just right to me – the more the friggin' merrier!

Randall Parker said at December 2, 2010 8:54 PM:


So you definitely believe in Uplift. Read David Brin's The Uplift War?

Mthson said at December 3, 2010 1:40 AM:

I'd love to live to see the uplifting of humankind.

I think we'd benefit enormously from the heightened economic and scientific productivity of an uplifted humankind, even if it means reducing some of our uniqueness. (We have a lot of uniqueness to spare.)

Lono said at December 3, 2010 8:45 AM:


I have not as of yet - though from what I have read on him - I believe he may end up being one of the more prophetic sci-fi authors of modern times.


I agree - uniqueness (or extensive genetic diversity) - is just a result of sexual reproduction anyways - and in the future it's protective advantages will be far less important than they have been for the last several million years.

I truly hope to see reasoned progress in this area within my lifetime.

Anonymous said at December 6, 2010 6:37 AM:

When parents decide children's genes we'll have:
1) Slaves (obedient, always happy, workaholics)
2) The best of both parents (more "natural" approach)
3) Reach for the stars (they'll buy genes of the best people in the world on ebay and mix it with their own (if any))

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