Group Dynamics and the Public Sphere

Psychology in the Public Sphere

Does narcissism create the politician or does politics create the narcissist?

This is an important question. While there is little to no research investigating this question, most clinicians believe that the personality and the job interact with each other. The traits necessary for success in politics have to be there from the beginning. It takes considerable self-confidence, extraversion, and ambition to wage a successful political campaign. But the experience of political power also has very potent psychological effects. The power and public attention can be intoxicating, leading people to feel they are entitled to special treatment and should not be held back by any limits.

This dynamic can also hold true for celebrities. Clinicians have further commented that the need for a managed and massaged public image can make politicians feel unaccountable for their private behavior. Their public persona becomes entirely cut off from their authentic private selves. All that matters is the image, not the actual beliefs or behavior. In fact, the psychiatrist Robert Millman has coined the term acquired situational narcissism, referring to the explosive impact of fame, power, and celebrity on narcissistic tendencies.


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