Are recent cohorts of college students more narcissistic than their predecessors? To address debates about the so-called “narcissism epidemic,” we used data from three cohorts of students (1990s: N = 1,166; 2000s: N = 33,647; 2010s: N = 25,412) to test whether narcissism levels (overall and specific facets) have increased across generations. We also tested whether our measure, the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI), showed measurement equivalence across the three cohorts, a critical analysis that had been overlooked in prior research. We found that several NPI items were not equivalent across cohorts. Models accounting for nonequivalence of these items indicated a small decline in overall narcissism levels from the 1990s to the 2010s (d = −0.27). At the facet level, leadership (d = −0.20), vanity (d = −0.16), and entitlement (d = −0.28) all showed decreases. Our results contradict the claim that recent cohorts of college students are more narcissistic than earlier generations of college students.

Additional Metadata
Keywords cohort differences, generational changes, measurement invariance, narcissism, Narcissistic Personality Inventory, open data, preregistered
Persistent URL
Journal Psychological Science
Wetzel, E. (Eunike), Brown, A. (Anna), Hill, P.L, Chung, J.M. (Joanne M.), Robins, R.W. (Richard W.), & Roberts, B.W. (Brent W.). (2017). The Narcissism Epidemic Is Dead; Long Live the Narcissism Epidemic. Psychological Science, 28(12), 1833–1847. doi:10.1177/0956797617724208