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Keywords:

  • narcissism;
  • popularity;
  • interpersonal perceptions;
  • dominance;
  • aggressiveness

Abstract

Objective

Narcissism affects social relationships from the very first interactions. The overall positivity of social impressions narcissists evoke is, however, unclear—with previous research reporting positive, negative, or null effects on popularity at short-term acquaintance. Here we postulate a dual-pathway model, which explains the effects of narcissism on (un-)popularity as the result of two opposing behavioral pathways: assertiveness and aggressiveness.

Method

In two studies, unacquainted German college students (N = 100; N = 68) met in groups of four to six persons and engaged in group discussions. Afterward, they provided ratings of each other's assertiveness, aggressiveness, and likeability. In Study 2, we additionally videotaped the sessions and assessed participants’ actual behavior.

Results

Results of both studies confirm our dual-pathway hypothesis: There was a “positive” and a “negative” path from targets’ narcissism to being liked or not—dependent upon being seen as assertive or aggressive. Behavioral observations showed that expressive and dominant behaviors mediated the positive path, whereas arrogant and combative behaviors mediated the negative path.

Conclusions

Initial (un-)popularity of narcissists at early stages of interpersonal interactions depends on the behavioral pathway that is triggered in the given situational context.