Date of this Version
Published in Psychological Bulletin 141:2 (March 2015), pp. 261-310; doi: 10.1037/a0038231
Despite the widely held belief that men are more narcissistic than women, there has been no systematic review to establish the magnitude, variability across measures and settings, and stability over time of this gender difference. Drawing on the biosocial approach to social role theory, a meta-analysis performed for Study 1 found that men tended to be more narcissistic than women (d = .26; k = 355 studies; N = 470,846). This gender difference remained stable in U.S. college student cohorts over time (from 1990 to 2013) and across different age groups. Study 1 also investigated gender differences in three facets of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) to reveal that the narcissism gender difference is driven by the Exploitative/Entitlement facet (d = .29; k = 44 studies; N = 44,108) and Leadership/Authority facet (d = .20; k = 40 studies; N = 44,739); whereas the gender difference in Grandiose/Exhibitionism (d = .04; k = 39 studies; N = 42,460) was much smaller. We further investigated a less-studied form of narcissism called vulnerable narcissism—which is marked by low self-esteem, neuroticism, and introversion—to find that (in contrast to the more commonly studied form of narcissism found in the DSM and the NPI) men and women did not differ on vulnerable narcissism (d = –.04; k = 42 studies; N = 46,735). Study 2 used item response theory to rule out the possibility that measurement bias accounts for observed gender differences in the three facets of the NPI (N = 19,001). Results revealed that observed gender differences were not explained by measurement bias and thus can be interpreted as true sex differences. Discussion focuses on the implications for the biosocial construction model of gender differences, for the etiology of narcissism, for clinical applications, and for the role of narcissism in helping to explain gender differences in leadership and aggressive behavior. Readers are warned against overapplying small effect sizes to perpetuate gender stereotypes.