‘Does Self Love or Self Hate Cause Aggression?’

Brad J. Bushman, Professor of Communication and Psychology, Margaret Hall and Robert Randal Rinehart Chair of Mass Communication Faculty, Ohio State University

It has been widely asserted that low self-esteem causes aggression, but laboratory evidence is lacking, and some contrary observations have characterized aggressors as narcissistic individuals having inflated, grandiose self-views.  In experimental studies involving college students, we measured both simple self-esteem and narcissism and then gave individual participants an opportunity to aggress against someone who had insulted them or praised them, or against an innocent third person. Self-esteem proved irrelevant to aggression. The combination of narcissism and insult led to exceptionally high levels of aggression toward the source of the insult.  Neither form of self-regard affected displaced aggression, which was low in general.  Similar results were found in an experiment involving 10-13 year old children. Recent research from a 3-year longitudinal study found that narcissistic children are also more aggressive against their own parents. In a meta-analysis, we compare self-esteem and narcissism scores for violent male prisoners who had murdered, assaulted, raped, or robbed someone, and nonviolent males the same age. Violent prisoners had much higher narcissism scores than the nonviolent men did, but self-esteem scores were similar for the two groups. These findings contradict the popular view that low self-esteem causes aggression and point instead toward threatened egotism as an important cause. Unfortunately, narcissism scores are increasing over time (at least in American college students). Fortunately, experiments show that increasing the psychological overlap between the narcissist and the victim can reduce narcissistic aggression. Narcissists love themselves, and if someone else is like them, they are reluctant to aggress against that person. A recent 2-year longitudinal study found that parental overvaluation predicts the development of narcissism.   


Lunedì 18 marzo 2019, ore 13.00

UNIMIB, Aula U6-25, U6 (1° piano)