Today’s college kids aren’t as narcissistic as older generations believe, study says


Cindy Om

Source: Brent Roberts

By Daily Illini Staff Report

Today’s college students are less narcissistic than their counterparts were in the 1990s, according to a study reported in the journal Psychological Science. University psychology professor Brent Roberts led the new analysis.

The data recorded each student’s score on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, a tool designed to measure an individual’s narcissistic tendencies by analyzing questions related to personal attitudes and beliefs.

The study reported a gradual decrease in narcissism from the 1990s to the 2010s, as well as a specific downward trend in traits such as leadership, vanity and entitlement.

The study compared 1,166 students at the University of California, Berkeley in the 1990s to tens of thousands of students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of California, Davis in the 2000s and 2010s.

After analyzing data, Roberts found that the average college student scored a 15 to 16 out of 40 on the NPI scale, while the average grandparent scored a 12. As people get older, their narcissistic tendencies decrease naturally, Roberts said. 

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Connie Kass, junior in AHS, believes people in college have to be narcissistic.

“You have to focus on yourself,” Kass said. “I don’t think it’s narcissism in a bad way.”

Roberts and his colleagues noted in the study that older adults like the idea of a narcissism epidemic because young people tend to be more narcissistic than they are.

Lizzie Skly, junior in AHS, hates the notion that adults believe the younger generation is more narcissistic.

“When it comes to the parents, all the nagging (about it), parents say they had to walk 10 miles in the snow,” Skly said “It’s annoying to be compared.”

However, Rachel Ward, senior in Media, sees some validity in this notion.

“I think it’s sort of true, with social media and all of that,” Ward said. “And how everyone thinks it’s so important to keep up with their reputation.”

However, the study concluded that a narcissism epidemic never existed, and it is just a decrease of narcissism as people age.

Elizabeth Heinen, senior in LAS, agrees with the study’s conclusion.

“I think it might be (the adult’s) perception. People may have that perception because (in college) it’s so many young people in one place,” Heinen said. “You know old folks talk about Snapchat. Selfies have always been a thing, now we are just better at taking them.”

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