A new study, the largest-ever conducted narcissism, looked specifically at hypersensitivity, a trait that helps determine how narcissistic people are.
Its findings suggests that, contrary to popular belief, millennials aren’t more sensitive than the baby boomer generation. In fact, it’s the other way around.
Generally speaking, as individuals in the study got older, they became less sensitive and the researchers found hypersensitivity sharply declined after a person turned 40.
But when the researchers looked at generation-specific trends, they noticed that overall, older generations were more sensitive than younger generations.
A new study suggests that, contrary to popular belief, millennials aren’t more sensitive than the baby boomer generation. In fact, it’s the other way around.
- The study including nearly 750 people, published December 10 in the journal Psychology and Aging, is the largest study of narcissism to date. In it, researchers examined six previously collected data sets so researchers could better understand how narcissistic traits vary among generations, and how levels of narcissism change as people age.Previous studies have only examined generational or individual trends in narcissistic behaviors, but not both at the same time like this new study.
- Narcissistic personality disorder is a condition in which a person has an inflated sense of self-importance and lack of empathy for others, which are typically mechanisms used to mask their low self-esteem, according to the Mayo Clinic. These behaviors can be more mild, too, in which case a person exhibits one or two narcissistic traits, but doesn’t have the full-blown disorder.For the current study, researchers looked at people between the ages of 13 and 77 who had completed interviews about their work, personality, and family lives, which psychologists and psychiatrists then analyzed and ranked on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 having the most narcissistic traits like defensiveness, authoritativeness, and stubbornness.
- The researchers used “hypersensitivity” to determine a person’s level of defensiveness, which William Chopik, a social-personality psychologist at Michigan State and a co-author of the study, said they defined as being unreceptive to others’ feedback and lashing out at any criticism toward one’s self.They found that younger generations are less hypersensitive than older generations.This suggests the millennial generation, which includes people who are currently between 23 and 38 years old, is less sensitive than the baby boomer generation, which includes people between the ages of 55 and 73.
Most people become less narcissistic as they get older.
- Romantic relationships, work, and parenting are all experiences that can make a person less narcissistic, Chopik said. REUTERS/Christian HartmannGenerally speaking, as individuals in the study got older, they became less sensitive and the researchers found hypersensitivity sharply declined after a person turned 40.But when the researchers looked at generation-specific trends, they noticed that overall, older generations were more sensitive than younger generations.According to Chopik, this could be due to generation-specific events that shaped study participants’ outlooks on life.In the United States, for example, “baby boomers may be more narcissistic than other generations because they grew up in a time when the government provided privileges like social security,” Chopik said, noting that the increase in narcissistic traits between boomers and younger generations is still relatively small.There were some caveats to the study. For example, the researchers relied on existing data sets to reach their conclusions rather than personally following people of different generations for decades.
- Chopik also noted that narcissism can be measured various ways and they only used one of those methods, which could have skewed the results.The study still offers insight into an age-old trope that suggests younger generations are inherently more self-centered than older ones.“Based on our study, there’s weak evidence that this [younger] generation is the worst in human history,” Chopik said, adding that he hopes his team’s findings quell parents who fear their teenagers’ narcissistic behaviors will never change.“We know younger people on average are more narcissistic, but that goes away as they age. People will live their own lives and have experiences to lower that narcissism and mature,” Chopik said.