Who's to blame? Narcissism and self-serving attributions following feedback



The study examined the relationship between narcissism, performance attributions, and negative emotions following success or failure. As expected, narcissistic individuals showed more self-serving attributions for their performance in an intelligence test than less narcissistic individuals: compared with less narcissistic individuals, narcissists revealed a stronger tendency to attribute success to ability and failure to task difficulty. In contrast to this, less narcissistic participants tended to show the opposite pattern by ascribing failure, but not success, to their ability. Additionally, anger and depression could be predicted by an interaction of performance feedback and performance attributions. Mediation analyses revealed that the attribution dimensions ‘task difficulty’ and ‘ability’ mediated the effect of narcissism on anger and depression following failure feedback. The results provide support for the theoretical assumption that attributional processes might, at least to some extent, explain the often reported relation between narcissism and negative emotions following failure. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.