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Karan, E. Grinband, J. Diamond, D. Fertuck, E.A. (2019). Perceptual Sensitivity to Facial Self Perception Associated with Pathological Narcissism. Psychoanal. Psychol., 36(4):303-312.

(2019). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 36(4):303-312

Perceptual Sensitivity to Facial Self Perception Associated with Pathological Narcissism

Esen Karan, MSc, Jack Grinband, Ph.D., Diana Diamond, Ph.D. and Eric A. Fertuck, Ph.D.

Pathological Narcissism can be characterized by impairments in Self-Other Differentiation (SOD), a developmental process of acquiring a consolidated, integrated, and individuated sense of self. As hypothesized by Blatt, SOD develops at a) perceptual (e.g., facial perception) and b) representational (e.g., traits, mental states, and beliefs) levels. The relationship between narcissism and SOD at the perceptual (P-SOD) and representational (R-SOD) levels, which are hypothesized to develop in tandem from infancy on, has not been empirically investigated in pathological narcissism. This relationship has implications for assessment, treatment, and personality theory. In this study, we aim to explore the association between P-SOD, as measured by a face discrimination task, and the Pathological Narcissism Inventory (PNI-52), which measures vulnerable and pathological narcissism. Undergraduates (N = 87, 38% female) were presented with a series of images consisting of morphs blending the participant's face with the face of another, and were asked to make self/other appraisals on a Likert scale ranging from 1 (100% other) to 5 (100% self). The task measured sensitivity (the ability to detect the self in the image) and discriminability (the ability to discriminate between the two categories, self vs. other). We found that higher scores on sensitivity were associated with higher scores on pathological narcissism, r(87) = 0.21, p < .05, and was primarily driven by vulnerable narcissism, r(87) = 0.23, p < .05. We conclude that vulnerable narcissism is associated with the perceptual sensitivity to detect the self and suggests a link between R-SOD and P-SOD. P-SOD is a promising dimension that may provide insight into the mental representations of those with pathological narcissism.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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