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Many Faces of Narcissism (2):

More Subtypes in the Narcissism Spectrum

The Narcissism Spectrum model successfully integrates the most renowned forms of narcissism (i.e., grandiose, entitled, and vulnerable). However, it does not embrace other narcissistic constructs, which have recently appeared in other fields of psychology (Rogoza et al. 2019).

According to the agency-communion model of grandiose narcissism, there are two types of grandiose narcissism: agentic and communal (Gebauer et al. 2012).

Agentic narcissism is characterised by exacerbated level of agentic self-enhancement. Agentic narcissists tend to greatly exaggerate their agentic qualities, such as intelligence, creativity, and academic abilities, while downplaying their communal attributes, like agreeableness, fairness, and cooperativeness. They subjectively justify or rationale their global self-evaluations (i.e., their excessively exalted sense of self-importance, entitlement, and social power) (Nehrlich, Gebauer 2019).

Communal narcissism [1] is interpreted as an agentic trait fulfilling the same self-motives as grandiose narcissism but using communal rather than agentic means (Gebauer et al. 2012). It means that while narcissism is all about grandiosity, entitlement, and power, these motives can be realised either in the agentic domain (e.g., by being entitled and exploitative) or alternatively in the communal domain (e.g., by being helpful and trustworthy in order to be admired by others for being helpful and trustworthy). Although the notion of communal narcissism may seem an oxymoron because the self-motives for grandiosity, esteem, entitlement, and power are agentic themselves, they, in fact, constitute false and superficial expressions of the underlying motives (Gebauer et al. 2012; Gebauer & Sedikides 2017). Communal narcissists subjectively justify or rationalise their global self-evaluations (excessively exalted sense of self-importance, entitlement, and social power) (Nehrlich, Gebauer 2019).

Communal narcissists subjectively justify or rationalize their global self-evaluations (again: excessively exalted sense of self-importance, entitlement, and social power) (Nehrlich, Gebauer 2019). They may seem to prioritise the needs of others over their own and may use acts of kindness and generosity to gain admiration and approval from others. While they may appear selfless on the surface, their behaviour is often motivated by a desire to maintain a positive image and avoid criticism or rejection. They enjoy being seen as the hero in various situations, whether it involves volunteering at a charity event or assisting a friend in need.

In romantic relationships, communal narcissists may adopt the role of the giver, showering their partners with gifts and favours in order to uphold their saintly image. However, beneath this altruistic facade lies a deep-seated need for validation and admiration.

The exploration of subtypes of narcissism highlights the intricate nature of this personality trait and the diverse ways it can manifest in individuals.


[1] The first to research communal aspect of narcissism [in Self-Sacrificing Self-Enhancement of the Pathological Narcissism Inventory (PNI) subscale] was Pincus et al. (2009).

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