Men, on average, are more narcissistic than women, regardless of age, according to a new large-scale study.
The study, which included three decades of data from more than 475,000 participants, found that men consistently scored higher in narcissism across multiple generations.
“Narcissism is associated with various interpersonal dysfunctions, including an inability to maintain healthy long-term relationships, unethical behaviour and aggression,” said lead author Emily Grijalva, assistant professor of organisation and human resources in the University at Buffalo School of Management.
“At the same time, narcissism is shown to boost self-esteem, emotional stability and the tendency to emerge as a leader,” she said.
“By examining gender differences in narcissism, we may be able to explain gender disparities in these important outcomes,” she added.
The researchers examined more than 355 journal articles, dissertations, manuscripts and technical manuals, and studied gender differences in the three aspects of narcissism: leadership/authority, grandiose/exhibitionism and entitlement.
They found the widest gap in entitlement, suggesting that men are more likely than women to exploit others and feel entitled to certain privileges.
The second largest difference was in leadership/authority. “Compared with women, men exhibit more assertiveness and desire for power,” Grijalva said.
“But there was no difference in the exhibitionism aspect, meaning both genders are equally likely to display vanity or self-absorption,” she said.
In addition, the study looked at data from college students between 1990 and 2013, and found no evidence that either gender has become more narcissistic over time.
Research has shown that personality differences, like narcissism, can arise from gender stereotypes and expectations that have been ingrained over time.
The authors speculated that the persistent lack of women in senior leadership roles may partially stem from the disparity between stereotypes 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,” Grijalva said.
“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 behaviour,” she said.
The study will appear in the journal Psychological Bulletin.