2021-12-15 12:00:00

Social identity threat across group status – the role of collective narcissism


These are my responses to questions asked to me and the co-authors on this paper “Social identity threat across group status: Links to psychological well-being and intergroup bias through collective narcissism and ingroup satisfaction” recently published in Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology by editors of the he Research Highlights section of Nature Reviews Psychology. While the answers are provided and edited by all co-authors, I am posting mine here ahead of the final spotlight cover. The whole PrejudiceLab is excited about having our research collaborations spotlighted.


1.    Could you provide me with some background on this project? Why did you decide to do this research project? What prior work led up to this latest paper?


AGZ: We wanted to clarify why group members respond to threats to their groups in a variety of different ways. Previous findings point to the important role of identification with the group in shaping those responses. But findings are not yet clear or consistent, leading sometimes to contradictory interpretations. Our work capitalizes on the distinction between collective narcissism and non-narcissistic ingroup satisfaction introduced by Agnieszka Golec de Zavala. Collective narcissism is the belief that the exaggerated greatness of the ingroup is not sufficiently appreciated by others. In contrast, ingroup satisfaction reflects the extent to which group members hold positive feelings (pride, satisfaction, joy) about belonging to the group. Both collective narcissism and ingroup satisfaction refer to positive evaluation of the group. But they have different, often opposite, associations with group members’ psychological well-being, their attitudes towards other groups and their perception of threat. We believe that this distinction helps us clarify why some studies point to positive, while others indicate negative consequences of ingroup identification for group members’ wellbeing and their perception of threat from other groups and their relations with members of other groups.


2.    Can you explain the methodology used in your paper? Why did you decide to adopt this approach?


AGZ: We conducted a correlational survey study. We wanted to merge the social identity perspective on intergroup threat with the theory of collective narcissism. We were interested in comparing the consequences of collective narcissism and ingroup satisfaction in groups that differ with respect to their status: ethnic majority vs ethnic minority groups. In this way, we departed from the field’s tendency to assess collective narcissism and ingroup satisfaction with reference to a nation but we followed one of the early findings on collective narcissism (published in a paper in 2009), that ethnic collective narcissism has different consequences for perceptions of racism among Blacks and Whites in the UK. We asked whether those consequences are different also for group members’ wellbeing and bias against other groups. We tested this among Whites and Blacks in the UK and among Turks and Kurds in Turkey. The results point to consistent patterns that are similar in both countries.


3.    What were the most significant findings? How do they relate to what was already known about this subject?

AGZ: It was already expected that identification with a group plays a role in how members of minority or disadvantaged groups to cope with distress of discrimination. What was not known was how this fits with findings systematically indicating that members of disadvantaged groups experience greater distress than members of advantaged groups. We clarified that collective narcissism accounts for group members’ distress in face of discrimination. This means that when group members focus on how their group is great but not recognized by others, negative consequences are more likely. Collective narcissism is associated with exaggerated perception of intergroup threat and bias against other groups. When collective narcissism is taken out of the equation, what is left – non-narcissistic positive identification with the group – is associated with group members’ wellbeing, among advantaged and disadvantaged groups alike. In other words, when group members focus on pride and satisfaction of being a member of valuable groups this protects their wellbeing when they are faced with discrimination. Ingroup satisfaction is not associated with perception of threat either among majority or minority groups.


4.    How do you plan to take this work forward? What are the implications for future research?


AGZ. One of the directions we are taking this forward is examining how collective narcissism is related to ideologies and actions that challenge group inequalities. Research in PrejudiceLab for example, shows that this depends on which group we ask. It depends on the group’s status and access to privilege (see our blog on ISPP 2022 symposium proposal). Collective narcissism among members of advantaged groups – such as ethnic majorities or men – is associated with ideologies that justify inequalities (e.g. political conservatism). Collective narcissism among members of disadvantaged groups – e.g., ethnic minorities or women – links to ideologies that challenge inequalities such as egalitarianism or support for collective actions on behalf of disadvantaged groups. 

Agnieszka Golec de Zavala
Agnieszka Golec de Zavala
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