Science dismantles myth: Millennials are not the most narcissistic generation

Bloggers, Instagram stars, selfies. Everything seems to point to the younger generation thinking only of itself. But does anyone back it with data?
Science dismantles myth: Millennials are not the most narcissistic generation


There are opinions, many in fact, that point out that young people are more narcissistic today than ever before in the history of mankind, but there is no evidence. What is more, the few that are going in the opposite direction, and indicate that the millennials are not only not more narcissistic, but are much less than those who were twenty-somethings a decade or two ago?

There is a scale to measure this personality trait called the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI ) and the most striking are that it has been used for many years. So Brent Roberts, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois, started looking for and found tens of thousands of questionnaires, both at his own institution and at the universities of California Davis and UC Berkeley. All these tests and their results cover from 1992 to 2015.

Their initial intention was to check if the NPI test was still valid when measuring the same traits in different generations. "For the most part it worked pretty well, but we found some elements that did not work consistently with different groups," says Roberts, and, "when you adjusted it to correct it, you saw declines in narcissism levels since the 1990s with respect to 2000 and 2010."

The test consists of choosing between options such as "I insist on getting the respect I owe" or "I always get the respect I deserve". The interesting thing is that, in analyzing specific patterns that are considered part of narcissism, such as vanity or privilege, in all the same trend descending from the nineties to the present. In addition, it occurred in both men and women, and in both Caucasian and other races.

"The average scoring of college students is between 15 and 16 on the NPI scale, of 40 possible points," adds Roberts. "The average grandparent is around 12 points, so if we rely on this, most people would not be narcissistic," says the professor, adding that "perhaps the most interesting thing is that narcissism declines with age.”


Where does the myth come from?


In general, that youth goes to their own, respects nothing and "in my times this was not seen" are prejudices settled since the beginning of humanity, but in regard to millennials there have been attempts to study if are a generation very different from their predecessors. For example, social psychologist Joshua Grubbs conducted a study in which the youngest appeared represented as the most narcissistic generation in history.

The work, presented at the last annual meeting of the Society for Social Psychology and Personality, consisted of an online survey where each age group valued the narcissism of their own generation and of the others. Those who were 60 years old or older gave the millennials a score of 65.3 points out of 100 while giving themselves the lowest score: just 26.5 points of narcissism. Conclusion: millennials are the most narcissistic.

In fact, the design of the Grubbs study predisposed to its results. The authors of the latest study suggest that elders often believe there is an "epidemic of narcissism" precisely because "our memory has gaps, so we do not remember how self-centered we were at that age, " says Roberts.
A few months ago, 'Time' dedicated its cover to the millennial or, as they called it, the 'generation I, I, I'. Paradoxically, the cover - which also used the adjective "narcissistic" - was based on one of the New York magazines of 40 years ago. In 1976, the mythical Tom Wolfe dedicated an extensive report to the 'generation I’.

Everything returns friends, except narcissism.



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