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Researchers say we have a 'narcissism epidemic'. So what's causing it?
Are you an important person? The answer you give may indicate to psychologists how narcissistic you are. Similarly, the culture you are born into plays an important role.
Are you an important person?
The answer you give may indicate to psychologists how narcissistic you are. And on a societal level, the answer people give is changing. In 1963, when adolescents were asked if they considered themselves important, only 12 percent answered affirmatively. 30 years later, that percentage had risen to 80.
Narcissism is on the rise in modern Western societies and scientists are trying to figure out why. Some hypothesize that individual narcissism follows from the culture someone lives in: the more individualistic the culture, the more narcissistic people tend to be.
Now a new study leverages a unique historical event—the division of Germany into east and west in the aftermath of World War II—to look at how cultural change affects individual personality. After Germany was partitioned among Allied powers following its surrender, Soviet control of the country's eastern regions affected a cultural shift toward Soviet-style communism.
The forty years of separation of former East and West Germany has provided researchers with a “natural experiment" to gauge how culture affects personality. In a recent study, the scientists administered an online survey amongst 1,025 German individuals who had to complete tests that measured their levels of narcissism and self-esteem. 343 of the participants had grown up in the territory of East Germany and 682 in the territory of West Germany before 1990.
The results showed that the participants from former West Germany scored higher on narcissistic grandiosity compared with the participants from former East Germany, even after controlling for gender and age. Interestingly, however, individuals from former East Germany had higher self-esteem than those from West Germany. This demonstrates that narcissism and self-esteem are not the same thing.
The researchers point out that:
Self-esteem, defined as global evaluation of the self, is related to narcissism. However, recent data provide evidence that narcissism differs from self-esteem in various domains. Narcissism and high self-esteem both include positive self-evaluations, but the entitlement, exploitation, sense of superiority, and negative evaluation of others that are associated with narcissism are not necessarily observed in individuals with high self-esteem.
In the United States, researchers have found symptoms of the “narcissism epidemic" in various places. Recently published books, for example, feature a more self-centered language. In comparison to earlier publications, the pronouns I and me tend to be used more frequently than we and us.
The use of narcissistic phrases such as “I am the greatest" has also increased between 1960 and 2008. At the same time, our popular culture seems mainly built on liberal conceptions of the self that give credibility to fame and self-focused memes like blogs, song lyrics, tweets, Instagram and so on.
The cultural environment—whether it is individualistic or collectivistic—affects the development of personality traits, including narcissism. Because individualistic cultures encourage a stronger focus on the self, their members may be more narcissistic than those of collectivistic cultures, which emphasize the importance of social values.
Ultimately, while you can't escape your culture, there are certain things you can do to decrease your narcissism and improve your self-esteem. Developing mindfulness, honoring your promises, respecting other people's space, needs and desires, as well as facilitating the process of self-acceptance and forgiveness are all good practices to start with.
"Deepfakes" and "cheap fakes" are becoming strikingly convincing — even ones generated on freely available apps.
- A writer named Magdalene Visaggio recently used FaceApp and Airbrush to generate convincing portraits of early U.S. presidents.
- "Deepfake" technology has improved drastically in recent years, and some countries are already experiencing how it can weaponized for political purposes.
- It's currently unknown whether it'll be possible to develop technology that can quickly and accurately determine whether a given video is real or fake.
The future of deepfakes<p>In 2018, Gabon's president Ali Bongo had been out of the country for months receiving medical treatment. After Bongo hadn't been seen in public for months, rumors began swirling about his condition. Some suggested Bongo might even be dead. In response, Bongo's administration released a video that seemed to show the president addressing the nation.</p><p>But the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=324528215059254" target="_blank">video</a> is strange, appearing choppy and blurry in parts. After political opponents declared the video to be a deepfake, Gabon's military attempted an unsuccessful coup. What's striking about the story is that, to this day, experts in the field of deepfakes can't conclusively verify whether the video was real. </p><p>The uncertainty and confusion generated by deepfakes poses a "global problem," according to a <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/research/is-seeing-still-believing-the-deepfake-challenge-to-truth-in-politics/#cancel" target="_blank">2020 report from The Brookings Institution</a>. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Defense released some of the first tools able to successfully detect deepfake videos. The problem, however, is that deepfake technology keeps improving, meaning forensic approaches may forever be one step behind the most sophisticated forms of deepfakes. </p><p>As the 2020 report noted, even if the private sector or governments create technology to identify deepfakes, they will:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"...operate more slowly than the generation of these fakes, allowing false representations to dominate the media landscape for days or even weeks. "A lie can go halfway around the world before the truth can get its shoes on," warns David Doermann, the director of the Artificial Intelligence Institute at the University of Buffalo. And if defensive methods yield results short of certainty, as many will, technology companies will be hesitant to label the likely misrepresentations as fakes."</p>
Context is everything.
The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a number of new behaviours into daily routines, like physical distancing, mask-wearing and hand sanitizing. Meanwhile, many old behaviours such as attending events, eating out and seeing friends have been put on hold.
A new study looks at how images of coffee's origins affect the perception of its premiumness and quality.
- Images can affect how people perceive the quality of a product.
- In a new study, researchers show using virtual reality that images of farms positively influence the subjects' experience of coffee.
- The results provide insights on the psychology and power of marketing.