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Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1-2014

Abstract

Narcissists often fail to abide by norms for polite social conduct, but why? The current study addressed this issue by exploring reasons why narcissists use more offensive language (i.e., profanity) than non-narcissists. In this study, 602 participants completed a survey in which they responded on a measure of trait narcissism, rated several offensive words on the degree to which the words were attention-grabbing and offensive, and then indicated how frequently they used the words. Consistent with the idea that narcissists use offensive language to gain attention, narcissists were incrementally more likely to use offensive language if they perceived such language to be highly attention-grabbing, and they were also more likely to perceive offensive language as attention-grabbing. Consistent with the idea that narcissists use more offensive language because they are less sensitive to the offensiveness of the language, an additional mediation analysis showed that narcissists perceived offensive language as less offensive than non-narcissists, a perception that, in turn, enhanced use of offensive language. Thus, this study provides evidence for two mechanisms that underlie narcissists’ frequent use of offensive language, and broadly contributes to the understudied issue of why narcissists violate social-etiquette norms.

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