ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (9): 2100-2116.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2022.02100

• Regular Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Collective narcissism: A catalyst for intergroup conflicts

XU Buxiao1,2, BAI Jie3, LI Ye4, GUO Yongyu3()   

  1. 1Department of Psychology, Shaoxing University, Shaoxing 312000, China
    2Center for Brain, Mind and Education, Shaoxing University, Shaoxing 312000, China
    3School of Psychology, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing 210097, China
    4School of Psychology, Central China Normal University, Wuhan 430079, China
  • Received:2021-12-08 Online:2022-09-15 Published:2022-07-21
  • Contact: GUO Yongyu


Collective narcissism is the group-level equivalent of individual narcissism and is currently defined as the belief that one's own group is exceptional and entitled to privileged treatment but it is not sufficiently recognized by others. Current research findings show that it has relatively strong explanatory power for intergroup hostility, because collective narcissists are hypersensitive to threats to their in-group image, status, or identity, and are prone to overestimate threats and suspect out-groups; and that lacking sense of self-worth and personal control is one important source of collective narcissism.

After reviewing the past research on collective narcissism, combined with latest progress in the field of individual narcissism, this paper proposes several important questions that remain to be investigated in the field of collective narcissism.

First, does collective narcissism necessarily entail vulnerability? Currently, collective narcissism tends to be understood as collective self-esteem that is contingent on admiration and recognition from others. This suggests that collective narcissists are generally conceived to be fragile internally, in that it is because of the vulnerability implicit in their own beliefs—or in other words, their own lack of confidence in their in-group's exceptional image—that they are prone to demand external affirmation or recognition. However, vulnerability may not be a necessary attribute of collective narcissism because there may be collective narcissism that is not fragile, just as there may be individual narcissism that is not fragile. Therefore, researchers may consider appropriately narrowing the connotation of collective narcissism to expand its denotation so as to explore more diverse forms of collective narcissism, such as collective narcissism with and without vulnerability.

Second, is the structure of collective narcissism one-dimensional? If not, what dimensions does it have? Although the most widely used collective narcissism scale has a one-dimensional structure, recent studies have developed and validated collective narcissism scales with a multidimensional structure. These studies are preliminary, however, and only suggest it is necessary to carry out multidimensional exploration. As for the exact structure of collective narcissism, further exploration is needed. And future research should not only explore the dimensions of collective narcissism, but also explore the sub-dimensions of both of vulnerable collective narcissism and grandiose collective narcissism.

Third, are the consequences of collective narcissism always negative? The vast majority of current research has focused on revealing the negative effects of collective narcissism, and very few studies have directly examined and found positive effects of collective narcissism. However, according to E. Fromm's classical theoretical view, collective narcissism may also have its benign forms within certain limits, just as individual narcissism may also have an adaptive side. Therefore, future research should explore the effects of collective narcissism from a more complete theoretical perspective, and especially, examine more the positive effects of collective narcissism.

Finally, does collective narcissism stem simply from frustrated individual needs? Although studies in recent years have begun to investigate the causes of collective narcissism, these studies largely focus on individual motivational factors and fail to examine them together with factors such as cognitions and sociocultural contexts. Future research may draw on ideas from theories such as system justification theory, social identity theory, and self-categorization theory to explore a more complete explanation for the phenomenon of collective narcissism.

In summary, after more than a decade of research, there are still many theoretically meaningful questions in the field of collective narcissism that deserve further exploration. And in today's world, such exploration also has profound practical significance, and it may bring a wealth of insights into how to deal with the struggles of various social groups for recognition.

Key words: collective narcissism, group narcissism, collective self-esteem, group identification, intergroup conflicts

CLC Number: