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Narcissism, self-esteem, and the phenomenology of autobiographical memories

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Across two studies, we investigated the influence of narcissism and self-esteem along with gender on phenomenological ratings across the four subscales of the Autobiographical Memory Questionnaire (AMQ; impact, recollection, rehearsal, and belief). Memory cues varied in valence (positive vs. negative) and agency (agentic vs. communal). In Study 2, we used different memory cues reflecting these four Valence by Agency conditions and additionally investigated retrieval times for the autobiographical memories (AMs). Results were consistent with the agency model of narcissism [Campbell, W. K., Brunell, A. B., & Finkel, E. J. (2006). Narcissism, interpersonal self-regulation, and romantic relationships: An agency model approach. In E. J. Finkel & K. D. Vohs (Eds.), Self and relationships: Connecting intrapersonal and interpersonal processes. New York, NY: Guilford], which characterises narcissists as being more concerned with agentic (self-focused) rather than communal (other-focused) positive self-relevant information. Narcissism predicted greater phenomenology across the four subscales for the positive-agentic memories (Study 1: clever; Study 2: attractive, talented) as well as faster memory retrieval times. Narcissism also predicted greater recollection and faster retrieval times for the negative-communal AMs (Study 1: rude; Study 2: annoying, dishonest). In contrast, self-esteem predicted greater phenomenology and faster retrieval times for the positive-communal AMs (Study 1: cooperative; Study 2: romantic, sympathetic). In both studies, results of LIWC analyses further differentiated between narcissism and self-esteem in the content (word usage) of the AMs.
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Keywords: Autobiographical memory; memory phenomenology; narcissism; self-esteem

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Psychology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA

Publication date: July 3, 2017

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