Narcissistic individuals are prone to become aggressive when their egos are threatened. We report a randomized field experiment that tested whether a social-psychological intervention designed to lessen the impact of ego threat reduces narcissistic aggression. A sample of 405 young adolescents (mean age = 13.9 years) were randomly assigned to complete either a short self-affirmation writing assignment (which allowed them to reflect on their personally important values) or a control writing assignment. We expected that the self-affirmation would temporarily attenuate the ego-protective motivations that normally drive narcissists' aggression. As expected, the self-affirmation writing assignment reduced narcissistic aggression for a period of a school week, that is, for a period up to 400 times the duration of the intervention itself. These results provide the first empirical demonstration that buttressing self-esteem (as opposed to boosting self-esteem) can be effective at reducing aggression in at-risk youth. © 2009 Association for Psychological Science.
Thomaes, S., Bushman, B. J., Orobio de Castro, B., Cohen, G. L., & Denissen, J. J. A. (2009). Reducing narcissistic aggresion by buttressing self-esteem: An experimental field study. Psychological Science, 20(12), 1536-1542. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02478.x