Narcissism and the use of personal pronouns revisited

Angela L. Carey, Melanie S. Brucks, Albrecht C P Küfner, Nicholas S. Holtzman, Fenne Große Deters, Mitja D. Back, M. Brent Donnellan, James W. Pennebaker, Matthias R Mehl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

39 Scopus citations

Abstract

Among both laypersons and researchers, extensive use of first-person singular pronouns (i.e., I-talk) is considered a face-valid linguistic marker of narcissism. However, the assumed relation between narcissism and I-talk has yet to be subjected to a strong empirical test. Accordingly, we conducted a large-scale (N = 4,811), multisite (5 labs), multimeasure (5 narcissism measures) and dual-language (English and German) investigation to quantify how strongly narcissism is related to using more first-person singular pronouns across different theoretically relevant communication contexts (identity-related, personal, impersonal, private, public, and stream-of-consciousness tasks). Overall (r =.01, 95% CI [-.02,.04]) and within the sampled contexts, narcissism was unrelated to use of first-person singular pronouns (total, subjective, objective, and possessive). This consistent near-zero effect has important implications for making inferences about narcissism from pronoun use and prompts questions about why I-talk tends to be strongly perceived as an indicator of narcissism in the absence of an underlying actual association between the 2 variables.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e1-e15
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Volume109
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015

Keywords

  • Language
  • LIWC
  • Narcissism
  • Personality
  • Replication
  • Text analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Psychology

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  • Cite this

    Carey, A. L., Brucks, M. S., Küfner, A. C. P., Holtzman, N. S., Deters, F. G., Back, M. D., Brent Donnellan, M., Pennebaker, J. W., & Mehl, M. R. (2015). Narcissism and the use of personal pronouns revisited. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 109(3), e1-e15. https://doi.org/10.1037/pspp0000029