Forensic Psychology

The Psychology of Criminal Behavior

What role do narcissistic traits play in antisocial attitudes and behavior?

Antisocial individuals have a good deal of narcissistic features and there is some overlap between the two personality types. Nonetheless, it is important to distinguish between the two. Narcissism is not the same as antisocial personality and many highly narcissistic people do not show antisocial traits. As is shown in Hare’s scale, grandiosity, lack of empathy, and a tendency to use others for one’s own ends are common among psychopathic individuals. And the DSM-IV definition of narcissistic personality disorders lists grandiosity, lack of empathy, and the expectation that others will accommodate to the individual’s desires as criteria for the disorder. In true psychopathy, however, there is little room for interpersonal relationships. Other people simply do not matter; they are solely means to an end. In narcissism, on the other hand, there is often a strong emphasis on interpersonal relationships, along with great dependence on others’ approval and validation. Narcissists may be self-obsessed but they are not necessarily cold, cruel, or sadistic. Nonetheless, under the proper conditions, highly narcissistic people can veer into criminal behavior. The desire for riches, fame, and power, along with the grandiose belief of being above the limits of normal people, can lead such individuals to cross over legal and ethical lines.


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