Reducing narcissistic aggresion by buttressing self-esteem: An experimental field study

S. Thomaes, B.J. Bushman, B. Orobio de Castro, G.L. Cohen, J.J.A. Denissen

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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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1536-1542
Number of pages7
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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