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The Many Faces of Narcissism:
Narcissism Factors and Their Predictive Utility
Indako E. Clarke a, Lisa Karlov a, Nicholas J. Neale a
This is a pre-publication version of:
Clarke, I. E., Karlov, L., & Neale, N. J. (2015). The many faces of narcissism: Narcissism factors and
their predictive utility. Personality and Individual Differences, 81, 90-95. DOI:
This article may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the journal. It is not the
copy of record. The exact copy of record can be accessed via the DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2014.11.021
a School of Psychology, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
School of Psychology
Brennan MacCallum Building (A18)
The University of Sydney
NSW 2006 Australia
Previous research has often portrayed narcissism as a unitary construct, however more recent research
suggests it may be multidimensional. This study was conducted to examine the utility of two measures
of narcissism – the Narcissistic Pathological Inventory and the Pathological Narcissism Inventory, in
jointly assessing a broader range of narcissism content. The sample consisted of 220 undergraduate
students. Eight factors were extracted from an exploratory analysis labeled: Contingent Self-Esteem,
Grandiose Fantasy, Leadership/Authority, Devaluing the Self, Grandiose Exhibitionism, Manipulative,
Entitlement, and Superiority. It was found that these narcissism factors had differing relationships with
self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and stress. Although a higher-order factor structure did not have
satisfactory fit, it is maintained that these eight factors reflect the two higher order dimensions of
adaptive and maladaptive narcissism. It is recommended that future researchers construct their studies
based on a multidimensional conceptualisation of narcissism, and use multiple narcissism measures.
1.1 Conceptual dimensionality
Research into the conceptual dimensionality of narcissism is complex, with different taxonomic
levels at which narcissism can be examined. There is not yet agreement regarding the number of
dimensions that make up the construct. According to Ackerman et al. (2011), narcissism may be
broadly conceptualized in two higher order dimensions – adaptive and maladaptive. Adaptive
narcissism is related to psychological health and resilience (Sedikides, Rudich, Gregg, Kumashiro, &
Rusbult, 2004) and maladaptive narcissism is related to entitlement and negative affect (Pincus et al.,
2009). This may be analogous to normal versus pathological narcissism (Pincus & Lukowitsky, 2010).
Normal narcissism has been associated with the ability to promote a positive self-image, seek out self-
enhancing experiences in social environments, and assert dominance in achievement related contexts
(Ackerman et al., 2011; Pincus & Lukowitsky, 2010). Pathological narcissism is related to problematic
self-regulation processes, and can be further broken down into grandiose and vulnerable dimensions
(Ackerman et al., 2011; Miller, Gentile, Wilson, & Campbell, 2013).
The grandiose dimension is associated with elements of grandiosity, aggression and entitlement,
whereas the vulnerable dimension is associated with feelings of inadequacy, negative affect and
incompetence (Miller et al., 2011). This grandiose/vulnerable distinction is widely supported in the
clinical literature (Cain, Pincus, & Ansell, 2008; Pincus et al., 2009). This two-factor model focusses
only on a maladaptive or pathological conceptualization of narcissism.
Other research has put forward models that may capture more adaptive traits associated with
narcissism. Russ, Shedler, Bradley, and Westen (2008) three-factor model consists of
‘Grandiose/Malignant’, ‘Fragile’ and ‘High-Functioning Exhibitionist’ factors. The
Grandiose/Malignant and Fragile dimensions are similar to the grandiose/vulnerable distinction. The
third factor, High-Functioning Exhibitionism, appears to capture more beneficial or adaptive
narcissistic traits such as leadership ability, and outgoingness, accompanied by an excessive sense of
self-importance (Russ et al., 2008). Ackerman et al. (2011) also proposed a model consisting of three
factors – ‘Leadership/Authority’, ‘Grandiose Exhibitionism’ and ‘Entitlement/Exploitativeness’.
Adaptive narcissism traits are reflected by the Leadership/Authority factor. When compared to the two-
factor model, these three-factor models encompass a wider range of traits associated with both adaptive
and maladaptive narcissism. However adaptive narcissism profiles are often uncorrelated with
maladaptive profiles, thus researchers have questioned the whether an adaptive dimension should be
considered in the measurement of narcissism at all (Ackerman et al., 2011).
1.2 Measuring narcissism
In personality research, trait narcissism is considered a heterogeneous construct, and its
measurement should reflect this (Miller et al., 2013). However narcissism measures are often still
interpreted as a global score rather than specific factor scores (Horvath & Morf, 2010; Sedikides et al.,
2004). The use of global scores may lead to the loss of more nuanced relationships between narcissistic
dimensions and other personality variables. Despite this, individual differences research has recognized
the importance of a multidimensional approach that utilizes factor scores and a combination of
measures (Maxwell, Donnellan, Hopwood, & Ackerman, 2011).
Criticisms of dominant measures of narcissism have emerged in light of dimensional
approaches to narcissism. The Narcissism Personality Inventory (NPI; Raskin & Terry, 1988) is
criticized due to the poor internal reliability of its sub-scales, and the tendency for researchers to sum
across the sub-scales to create a global score (Brown, Budzek, & Tamborski, 2009). Some argue that
specific sub-scales related to grandiosity and entitlement should replace the NPI altogether (Brown et
al., 2009). Others suggest that the NPI should not be replaced because it accounts for more variance in
trait narcissism than these individual sub-scales (Miller, Price, & Campbell, 2012), and has strong
convergence with expert ratings of narcissistic personality disorder (Miller, Gaughan, Pryor, Kamen, &
The NPI is also criticized for its lack of a consistent factorial structure (Maxwell et al., 2011).
Numerous factor solutions have been found, such as the Emmons four-factor solution (Emmons, 1984;
Rhodewalt & Morf, 1995) and Raskin and Terry’s (1988) seven-factor solution. More recently,
Kubarych, Deary, and Austin (2004) have put forward a revised three-factor solution relating to
‘Power’, ‘Exhibitionism’ and being a ‘Special Person.’ The Pathological Narcissism Inventory (PNI;
Pincus et al., 2009) was created to address the lack of measurement tools assessing pathological
narcissism (Cain, Pincus, & Ansell, 2008). In general, the NPI assesses adaptive aspects of narcissism
while the PNI assesses maladaptive aspects of narcissism (Cain et al., 2008; Pincus et al., 2009).
1.3 Dimensions of narcissism and their nomological networks
Grandiose and vulnerable narcissism have different associations with a number of personality
variables including the Five Factor Model. Broadly, both converge in their association with
antagonistic interpersonal style, and diverge in their relationships with neuroticism and extraversion
(Miller et al., 2011). Grandiose narcissism is positively related to extraversion and negatively related to
neuroticism and agreeableness; whereas vulnerable narcissism is positively related to neuroticism and
negatively related to extraversion and agreeableness (Miller et al., 2011). Other research has found that
vulnerable narcissism is also closely related to psychopathy and Machiavellianism, unlike grandiose
narcissism (Egan, Chan, & Shorter, 2014). Grandiose and vulnerable narcissism have divergent
associations with psychological distress. Grandiose narcissism has been found to have no significant
relationship, or a negative relationship with symptoms of distress and negative affect (Miller et al.,
2011; Sedikides et al., 2004). Vulnerable narcissism is correlated with depression, anxiety, hostility,
paranoia and interpersonal sensitivity (Miller et al., 2011). Ackerman et al.’s (2011)
Leadership/Authority factor related to a number of positive personality traits. This factor had no
association with negative personality traits (e.g. Neuroticism) or with maladaptive aspects of narcissism
such as entitlement or anti-social tendencies, with the exception of a moderate negative correlation with
agreeableness (Ackerman et al., 2011).
A significant hurdle for narcissism research is its complex relationship with self-esteem. There
is a fundamental difference between those high in self-esteem compared to those high in narcissism.
Self-esteem is considered intra-personal e.g. feeling confident and self-assured; whereas narcissism is
considered interpersonal e.g. feeling superior to others and arrogant (Rosenthal & Hooley, 2010).
Evidence suggests narcissism is associated with higher reported self-esteem (Horvath & Morf, 2010),
however this relationship may be only true of adaptive narcissism (Ackerman et al., 2011), whereas
maladaptive narcissistic traits may have an inverse relationship with self-esteem (Pincus et al., 2009).
1.4 Aims and hypotheses
There were two broad aims of this study. The first was to clarify the dimensionality of
narcissism through its measures: the NPI and PNI. It was hypothesised that both the NPI and PNI
would contain a mix of adaptive and maladaptive content, and that this would be reflected in a two-
higher order latent factor structure. The second aim was to examine these narcissism dimensions in
their nomological network, including self-esteem, personality, depression, stress and anxiety. It was
hypothesised that the dimensions would have differential relationships with self-esteem in particular. It
was hypothesised that adaptive narcissism would be positively correlated with self-esteem, and
maladaptive narcissism would be negatively correlated with self-esteem.
220 first-year undergraduate psychology students at a large Australian university (156 females,
Mage = 19.25, SDage = 3.16) received course credit in exchange for participation. 70 participants (31.8%)
identified as being Anglo-Celtic, and 96 (43.6%) participants identified as Asian.
2.2.1. Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI; Raskin & Terry, 1988)
The NPI is a 40-item self-report questionnaire. The response format was modified to a six-point
scale ranging from ‘not at all like me’, to ‘very much like me’. This modification is becoming more
frequent (Egan & Lewis, 2011). Reliability for the NPI was α = .92.
2.2.2. Pathological Narcissism Inventory (PNI; Pincus et al., 2009)
The PNI is a 52-item self-report questionnaire with the same response format as the modified
NPI. The PNI was constructed with seven subscales: ‘Contingent Self-Esteem’, ‘Exploitative’, ‘Self-
Sacrificing Self-Enhancement’, ‘Hiding the Self’, ‘Grandiose Fantasy’, ‘Devaluing’, and ‘Entitlement
Rage’ (Pincus et al., 2009). Reliabilities for the subscales were α = .91, .75, .76, .77, .88, .81, and .82
2.2.3. Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSE; Rosenberg, 1965)
The RSE is a commonly used 10-item questionnaire using a four-point Likert scale. Reliability
for the RSE was α = .85.
2.2.4. Big Five Inventory (BFI; John, Donahue, & Kentle, 1991)
The BFI assesses the five-factor model of personality using a five-point Likert scale. Reliability
for Extraversion was α = .84, for Agreeableness was α = .71, α = .78 for Conscientiousness, α = .81 for
Neuroticism, and α = .73 for Openness to Experience.
2.2.5. Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS; Lovibond & Lovibond, 1995)
The short version of the DASS is a 21-item scale measuring depression, anxiety and stress using
a four-point response scale. Respondents indicate how much a statement applied to them over the past
week, from ‘did not apply’ to ‘applied very much’, e.g. ‘I found it hard to wind down’. Reliability for
Depression was α = .85, α = .74 for Anxiety, and α = .83 for Stress.
Following approval by the University of Sydney Human Research Ethics Committee,
participants were recruited through a university-administered website. Questionnaires were
administered by computer under supervised conditions on university campus.
2.4 Data analysis
The data was examined for implausible responses based on extreme or invariant responding.
Based on this examination, all responses from one respondent were removed (N = 219). Given the
hypothesis that both the NPI and PNI contain a mix of adaptive and maladaptive narcissism content,
items from both scales were jointly assessed in an exploratory factor analysis (EFA). As there are
identical items in the NPI and PNI, duplicates were removed from analysis, leaving 86 items in total.
Factors with eigenvalues greater than one were examined in conjunction with the scree plot. EFAs were
conducted using maximum likelihood extraction with promax rotation. Items that had both
communalities <.16, and factor loadings of <|.3| on all factors were deleted from the final factor
solution. Items that loaded on more than one factor were assigned to the factor with the highest loading.
Parallel analysis of 1000 bootstrap samples was conducted using Marley Watkins Monte Carlo PCA for
Parallel Analysis. Eight of the observed eigenvalues were larger than the 95th percentile of random
eigenvalues (see Table 1). Based on the scree plot, results of the parallel analysis, and theory, eight
factors were extracted.
A confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was conducted to assess the hypothesised two-higher
order latent factor structure of the eight factors extracted from the EFA. In addition, a three-higher
order latent factor CFA was conducted, intended to reflect adaptive, grandiose, and vulnerable
dimensions of narcissism.
Finally, a series of hierarchical regressions predicting depression, anxiety, stress, and self-
esteem were conducted. Gender, age, and personality were entered into the first block, and each of the
eight narcissism factors were entered separately into the second block. Narcissism factors were entered
separately due to issues of multicollinearity.
3.1 Factor analyses
Eight factors were extracted in an EFA of NPI and PNI items, explaining 45.40% of the
variance. The extracted factors were labeled ‘Contingent Self-Esteem’ (Factor I), ‘Grandiose Fantasy
(II), ‘Leadership/Authority’ (III), ‘Devaluing the Self’ (IV), ‘Grandiose Exhibitionism’ (V),
‘Manipulative’ (VI), ‘Entitlement’ (VII), and ‘Superiority’ (VIII). Factor loadings and intercorrelations
are shown in Table 1.
Indices of fit for both the two- and three-higher order factor CFAs suggested that the models
had unsatisfactory fit (CFI = .84 and .83 respectively; RMSEA = .16 and .17). Further fit statistics are
available from the first author.
3.2 Descriptive statistics
The descriptive statistics for factor scores and additional variables of interest are shown in
The correlations between factor scores and variables of interest are shown in Table 3. The
correlations show that each of the narcissism factors have differential relationships with psychological
distress, self-esteem, and personality. Leadership/Authority, Grandiose Exhibitionism, and Superiority
are correlated with higher self-esteem, and are not significantly correlated with psychological distress.
On the other hand, Contingent Self-Esteem, Grandiose Fantasy, and Devaluing the Self are correlated
with lower self-esteem, and higher reported levels of psychological distress.
3.4 Regression analyses
Four separate hierarchical regression analyses were conducted with Self-Esteem, Depression,
Anxiety and Stress as each of the outcome variables. Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness,
Neuroticism, Openness to Experience, Gender, and Age were entered into the first model as control
variables. The eight narcissism factors were entered into the second model to assess the incremental
predictive validity of these factors. The results of these analyses are shown in Table 4. The results show
that the narcissism factors account for a significant amount of additional variance in Self-Esteem,
Depression, Anxiety, and Stress, over and above personality, gender and age. Betas and semi-partial
correlations for the regression analyses are shown in Table 5. Devaluing the Self appears to be most
detrimental to psychological wellbeing, as it significantly predicts Self-Esteem, Depression, and Stress.
The results of the present study provide some support for the heterogeneity of narcissism. Eight
narcissism factors were identified: Contingent Self-Esteem, Grandiose Fantasy, Leadership/Authority,
Devaluing the Self, Grandiose Exhibitionism, Manipulative, Entitlement, and Superiority. These factors
had differing relationships with other variables. The findings may help clarify the complex relationship
between narcissism and self-esteem (Cain et al., 2008; Rosenthal & Hooley, 2010).
Although a higher-order factor structure did not have satisfactory fit, it is maintained that the
factors identified in this study reflect a multidimensional conceptualisation of narcissism: Adaptive and
Maladaptive Narcissism. It is proposed that Maladaptive Narcissism is characterised by grandiosity
used as a compensation for low self-esteem. This may be best reflected by the Contingent Self-Esteem,
and Devaluing the Self factors. These factors positively predicted Depression and Stress, and
negatively predicted Self-Esteem over and above Neuroticism. These factors were also inversely
correlated with Extraversion, supporting Ronningstam’s (2005) ‘Shy narcissist’ typology, characterised
by interpersonal inhibitions, and low tolerance for exhibitionism. On the other hand, Adaptive
Narcissism is characterised by a sense of superiority and a preference for leadership roles. The
Leadership/Authority and Superiority factors may best reflect this dimension. These factors were
positively correlated with Self-Esteem, and negatively correlated with Neuroticism. They had no
association with Depression, Anxiety, and Stress. Based on these findings, it may be that Adaptive
Narcissism content is a distinctly different to ‘Narcissism’.
This study had several limitations. The use of self-report measures is of particular concern for
individuals who might display narcissistic traits. It is likely that self-deception is a critical aspect of
narcissistic functioning. The second limitation is related to issues of generalizability of the present
findings beyond an undergraduate sample. Additionally, the sample size restricted the types of analyses
that could be conducted – regression was chosen over more sophisticated structural equation modelling
due to insufficient N. Research in larger, non-student samples is warranted.
It is recommended that future research should utilize multiple narcissism measures, in order to
gain a more holistic view of narcissism as a multi-dimensional construct. Another important area of
future research concerns the continuity of narcissism traits. In a taxometric analysis, Fossati et al.
(2005) found there was a discontinuity in the distribution of the DSM-IV NPD criteria (APA, 2000).
However, in a separate taxometric analysis, Foster and Campbell (2007) found support for a
dimensional view of narcissism. This is particularly important given the qualitatively different
associations of ‘Adaptive’ Narcissism with other variables. Further research in this area may change
our conceptions of both trait and clinical narcissism.
This study contributes to factor analyses of narcissism measures. It follows on from the
proposals for an adaptive/maladaptive distinction between narcissism measures and facets (Ackerman
et al., 2011). Most importantly, this study has been an empirical investigation of narcissism factors, and
provides evidence for a multidimensional conceptualisation of narcissism. Finally, evidence is provided
for the utility of narcissism factors in the prediction of psychological outcomes.
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Rotated factor loadings for NPI and PNI joint EFA, eigenvalues, and factor intercorrelations.
PNI40 I am disappointed when people don’t notice me
PNI16 When others don’t notice me, I start to feel worthless
PNI36 It’s hard for me to feel good about myself unless I know other people like me
PNI30 It’s hard to feel good about myself unless I know other people admire me
PNI48 I need others to acknowledge me
PNI08 When people don’t notice me, I start to feel bad about myself
PNI32 I am preoccupied with thoughts and concerns that most people are not interested in
PNI37 It irritates me when people don’t notice how good a person I am
PNI47 When others don’t respond to me in the way I would like them to, it is hard for me to
still feel okay with myself
PNI05 It’s hard to feel good about myself when I’m alone
PNI19 I sometimes need important others in my life to reassure me of my self-worth
PNI34 Sometimes I avoid people because I’m concerned they won’t acknowledge what I do
PNI33 I like to have friends who rely on my because it makes me feel important
PNI02 My self-esteem fluctuates a lot
PNI39 I try to show what a good person I am through my sacrifices
PNI22 I feel important when others rely on me
PNI45 I often fantasize about being recognized for my accomplishments
PNI31 I often fantasize about being rewarded for my efforts
PNI14 I often fantasize about having a huge impact on the world around me
PNI42 I often fantasize about performing heroic deeds
PNI26 I often fantasize about accomplishing things that are probably beyond my means
PNI01 I often fantasize about being admired and respected
PNI41 I often find myself envying others’ accomplishments
PNI44 It’s important to show people I can do it on my own, even if I have doubts inside
PNI43 I help others in order to prove I’m a good person
PNI25 Sacrificing for others makes me the better person
NPI36 I am a born leader
NPI33 I would prefer to be a leader
NPI10 I see myself as a good leader
NPI11 I am assertive
NPI32 People always seem to recognize my authority
NPI12 I like having authority over people
NPI18 I want to amount to something in the eyes of the world
NPI17 I like to take responsibility for making decisions
NPI27 I have a strong will to power
NPI23 Everybody likes to hear my stories
PNI21 When others don’t meet my expectations, I often feel ashamed about what I wanted
PNI24 When others disappoint me, I often get angry at myself
PNI03 I sometimes feel ashamed about my expectations of others when they disappoint me
PNI50 When others get a glimpse of my needs, I feel anxious and ashamed
PNI17 Sometimes I avoid people because I’m concerned that they’ll disappoint me
PNI46 I can’t stand relying on other people because it makes me feel weak
PNI27 Sometimes I avoid people because I’m afraid they won’t do what I want them to
PNI09 I often hide my needs for fear that others will see me as needy and dependent
PNI51 Sometimes it’s easier to be alone than to face not getting everything I want from
PNI28 It’s hard to show others the weaknesses I feel inside
PNI07 I hate asking for help
NPI29 I like to look at myself in the mirror
NPI19 I like to look at my body
NPI30 I really like to be the center of attention
NPI15 I like to display my body
NPI20 I am apt to show off if I get the chance
NPI07 I like to be the center of attention
NPI28 I like to start new fads and fashions
NPI04 I know that I am good because everybody keeps telling me so
NPI31 I can live my life in any way that I want to
NPI13 I find it easy to manipulate people
NPI35 I can make anybody believe anything I want them to
NPI06 I can usually talk my way out of anything
NPI01 I have a natural talent for influencing people
PNI10 I can make anyone believe anything I want them to
NPI16 I can read people like a book
PNI11 I get mad when other people don’t notice all that I do for them
PNI20 When I do things for other people, I expect them to do things for me
NPI25 I will never be satisfied until I get all that I deserve
PNI52 I can get pretty angry when others disagree with me
PNI18 I typically get very angry when I’m unable to get what I want from others
NPI24 I expect a great deal from other people
PNI12 I get annoyed by people who are not interested in what I say or do
NPI26 I like to be complimented
NPI38 I get upset when people don’t notice how I look when I go out in public
NPI14 I insist upon getting the respect that is due to me
PNI29 I get angry when criticized
NPI37 I wish somebody would someday write my biography
NPI34 I am going to be a great person
NPI40 I am an extraordinary person
NPI08 I will be a success
NPI09 I think I am a special person
NPI39 I am more capable than other people
NPI05 If I ruled the world it would be a much better place
I: Contingent Self-Esteem
II: Grandiose Fantasy
IV: Devaluing the Self
V: Grandiose Exhibitionism
Note. N = 219; NPI = Narcissistic Personality Inventory; PNI = Pathological Narcissism Inventory. Factor loadings <|.3| are not shown.
All factor intercorrelations r >|.13| are significant at p <.05 (two-tailed).
Descriptive statistics for narcissism factors and variables of interest
Openness to Experience
Devaluing the Self
Note. N = 219.
Correlations between narcissism factors and variables of interest.
Devaluing the Self
Note. N = 219; Gender coded 0 = male, 1 = female.
* Significant at p <.05.
** Significant at p <.01.
Model summaries for four hierarchical regression analyses.
Note. N = 219; Model 1 predictor variables: Age, Gender, Extraversion, Agreeableness,
Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, Openness to Experience; Model 2 additional predictor variables:
Contingent Self-Esteem, Grandiose Fantasy, Leadership/Authority, Devaluing the Self, Grandiose
Exhibitionism, Manipulative, Entitlement, Superiority.
Betas and semi-partial correlations between narcissism factors and outcome variables in full
hierarchical regression model (Model 2).
Devaluing the Self
Note. N = 219; Model 2 variables (see Table 4).
* β significant at p<.05.
** β significant at p<.01.