Testosterone increases narcissism in men, study finds

A new study published in Psychological Science found that agent narcissism is positively associated with self-reported and objectively measured testosterone levels.

Several years ago I studied narcissism as a personality trait. Recent findings have indicated that narcissism may be a multidimensional construct, said study author Marcin Zajenkowski, a professor at the University of Warsaw.

I was interested in biological correlates of various dimensions of narcissism, predicting that only so-called agent narcissism would be positively associated with testosterone level.

Grandiose narcissism can be divided into two facets, including agent narcissism (assertiveness, grandiosity, and feelings of superiority), which is a tendency toward self-promotion to gain the admiration of others and/or to become socially influential, and antagonistic narcissism ( arrogance, brawling, and exploitation), which refers to a reactive strategy in response to threats to one’s ego or status, as a means of restoring what has been threatened. Agent narcissism represents the default narcissistic strategy.

This pre-registered study included 283 Polish men with a mean age of 22.84 years. Testosterone levels were assessed through blood collection. Participants arrived at the laboratory between 7:30 and 9:30 am. They were instructed to abstain from alcohol for at least 24 hours before blood collection; any beverage, food or medicine containing caffeine, as well as physical exercise at least 15 hours in advance; and smoke for at least 3 hours beforehand. The researchers obtained two indicators of baseline testosterone, including total and free testosterone levels.

After blood collection, participants took a Qualtrics survey. They completed several narcissism questionnaires, including Polish adaptations of 1) the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, focusing on agent narcissism; 2) the Narcissistic Admiration and Rivalry Questionnaire that measures agent and antagonistic narcissism; 3) the short version of the Five Factor Narcissism Inventory, which produces scores for agent, antagonistic, and neurotic narcissism, 4) and the Hypersensitivity Narcissism Scale, which captures neurotic narcissism. Participants also provided self-assessed testosterone ratings, indicating how they would compare to other men on a scale of 1 (very low) to 25 (very high).

We examined how aspects of narcissism that have been identified in previous research are associated with testosterone, which is thought to be a social hormone that drives dominance behaviors and motivations, Zajenkowski told PsyPost.

In a sample of men, we found that one facet of agent narcissism is associated with elevated testosterone levels. Additionally, we found that men have some information about their testosterone levels. Those with greater agent narcissism rated their testosterone level positively.

Antagonistic and neurotic narcissism were not associated with any of the testosterone measures.

Are there questions that still need answers? Zajenkowski said: We only test men and the male reproductive hormone – testosterone. Future studies could examine whether estradiol – the female reproductive hormone – is associated with narcissism and narcissistic behavior.

The study, Ego-Enhancing Hormone: Self-Reported Blood-Based Testosterone Is Associated with Higher Narcissism, was authored by Marcin Zajenkowski, Gilles E. Gignac, Radosaw Rogoza, Jeremiasz Grniak, Oliwia Maciantowicz, Maria Leniarska, Peter K Jonason, and Konrad S. Jankowski.

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