Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement
Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement

 
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Narcissism -- a very positive and inflated view of the self -- is everywhere. It's what you have if you're a politician and you've strayed from your wife, and it's why?five times as many Americans undergo plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures today than did just ten years ago. It's the value that parents teach their children with song lyrics like "I am special. Look at me," the skill teenagers and young adults obsessively hone on Facebook and MySpace, and the reason high school students physically beat classmates and then broadcast their violence on YouTube for all to see. It's the message preached by prosperity gospel and the vacuous ethos spread by celebrity newsmakers. And it's what's making people depressed, lonely, and buried under piles of debt.Jean M. Twenge's influential and controversial first book, Generation Me, generated a national debate with its trenchant depiction of the challenges twenty- and thirtysomethings face emotionally and professionally in today's world -- and the fallout these issues create for older generations as well as employers. Now, Dr. Twenge is on to a new incendiary topic that has repercussions for every age-group and class: the pernicious spread of narcissism in today's culture and its catastrophic effects. Dr. Twenge joins forces with W. Keith Campbell, Ph.D., a nationally recognized expert on narcissism, for The Narcissism Epidemic, their eye-opening exposition of the alarming rise of narcissism -- and they show how to stop it.Every day, you encounter the real costs of narcissism: in your relationships and family, in the workplace and the economy at large, in schools that fail to teach necessary skills, in culture, and in politics. Even the world economy has been damaged by risky, unrealistic overconfidence. Filled with arresting anecdotes that illustrate the hold narcissism has on us today -- from people hiring fake paparazzi in order to experience feeling famous to college students who won't leave a professor's office until their B+ becomes an A -- The Narcissism Epidemic is at once a riveting window into the consequences of narcissism, a probing analysis of the culture at large, and a prescription to combat the widespread problems caused by narcissism. As a society, we have a chance to slow the epidemic of narcissism once we learn to identify it, minimize the forces that sustain and transmit it, and treat it where we find it. Drawing on their own extensive research as well as decades of other experts' studies, Drs. Twenge and Campbell show us how.

Customer Reviews:

  • Decent diagnosis; muddled cure
    The authors of "The Narcissism Epidemic" do a good job of describing narcissistic trends in our society. They examine the trend toward excessive and unwarranted self-obsession, in all its manifestations, from the schoolyard to the computer to the pulpit.

    But the book seems to take an overly-broad, scattershot approach to what narcissism really is and how it operates. The authors contend, for example, that this attitude is fostered by teaching styles that tell everyone that he or she is "special." But if everyone is special, just for being him or herself, then no one is. Praise of this kind is inane and worthless. Kids see through it right away. It will only hook the person who already has some need or reason to take a false view of him or herself.

    Why might someone need to take such a false view? The narcissist believes that "I am important and you are not," not that everyone is special. And he or she acts accordingly, demanding recognition of his or her specialness. But such grandiosity hides an estrangement from the true self. Pretending that one is just like everybody else and there is nothing special about one's truest, best and holiest self is not the answer to this problem. A person with a huge investment in an empty, false self will have no interest in being like everyone else. The real goal should be to shift the attention to development of the true self and to the potential for this true self to develop intimacy with the true self of others.

    The authors contend that recent studies show narcissists (with the exception of the "covert" narcissist, a sort of sad-sack type) suffer from high self-esteem, not low self-esteem, and that this drives their need for praise. We must ask what is meant by "self esteeem." The traditional theory of narcissism says that narcissism comes about because parents reject the child's authentic, human, fallible self in favor of an artificially-inflated false self. A person can thus "esteem" their false self, even while ignoring or having no respect at all for their true self. One sees this in the corporate CEO who has given up all of his heartfelt hobbies because they seem unimportant in light of the narcisstic supply he reaps from his position. Conversely, acknowledgement and valuing of a person's inward, true self and its potential does not lead to narcissism but instead to socially useful striving to grow into what one is meant to be.

    A child doesn't just want to hear that he did well because he worked hard; he wants to know that the gift he brought into this earth with him has found fertile soil and is now growing to fruition and will be valued by others. This is different from the inanity of being told one is "special just for being you" or superior to others in some sort of generic sense. That is like being fed on whipped cream instead of solid food.

    The authors are highly critical of any undeserved or unwarranted praise, and any belief that one is special. But what if that praise is targeted mostly at the child's "false" self, the self that can make the parent and society proud of the child because the child fulfills socially-recognized expectations, at the expense of the child's real needs? Could it be that there is something about our society, deeper than individual moral failings, that is driving this phenomenon? Something about increased expectations for individual achievement, and a "devil-take-the-hindmost" attitude?

    To give one example, the authors deplore newly-minted lawyers at big firms who wilt without positive feedback, and burst into tears under criticism. Is this a sign of excessively positive self-esteem? Or is it a recognition that the legal business has become absurdly competitive, with little time for mentoring, huge emphasis on outrageous billable hour requirements and the partnership track, and an excessive focus on top-rated schools and inflated big-firm salaries? If you want to strip new associates of their "narcissism," assign them to a mentor who will actually spend time with them, have them represent a few poor people, help them get out from under their absurdly-high student loans, and pay them a more modest beginning wage with more reasonable working hours. Connect with them as human beings instead of billable-hour factories. Let the seed within them go down into the dirt and sprout. If this happens infrequently it is because it is the system that is broken, not just because the individuals are "evil" narcissists.

    The authors become increasingly strident as the book goes on, eventually attacking the individuality at the heart of western society itself. If we could just be more like the Asians, they assert, this narcissism problem would go away. Nevermind that children who are "special" or "different" in Japanese society are tormented, bullied and hounded until many of them commit suicide or spend their childhood hiding at home, afraid to go to school. Could it be that American society is just a mirror image of this Japanese dynamic? In our country, people pride themselves on being "unique" but they end up following the societally-approved values of fame, wealth, superficiality, and self-aggrandizement. Those who do not are often despised.

    The authors suggest both that a sort of collective rather than individual ethos is required and that individual achievement is what matters, deploring excessive praise for those who don't "cut the mustard." They hold out Scandinavia as an example, where the attitude is that "someone who stands too high above others needs to be cut down." But what if the narcissism we currently face is a collective flaw that arises from obsession with achievement of socially-approved, superficial goals rather than following one's own inner light and developing true interests that come from the heart?

    Isn't it possible that just as their publisher put bold-faced blurbs on the back of this book to help it sell, people feel they need to pad their resumes and proclaim their greatness to get ahead in what has become a winner-take-all society? I agree with the authors that narcissism is ultimately self-defeating and deplorable, but collectivism is unlikely to be the solution, either, particularly in our society. I would like to suggest a third way: people should find something deep, something that resonates with their souls, and throw themselves so totally into pursuit of that thing that they lose preoccupation with their self-image and their need for endless acknowledgement from others. Then they should find others who share a fascination with that thing (music, art, or whatever) and develop a sense of shared community. This would be a true cure for narcissism.

    ...more info
  • Fascinating and sad
    This is a fascinating and sad book. The information, and implied prediction that our future will be populated with more narcissists, makes you want to read and share the book with others to warn them, in particular, parents. But it's a sad book. Our culture has created these self-centered creatures and it is now mass-producing them. Everyone is "special." Everyone wins or gets an award for just showing up. Is it any wonder so many americans vote to have government take over their lives through increased socialist-government programs? The world owes me a living, literally, and those who produce and have the money should pay for it.

    It's a good book, about the growing bad behavior, arrogance, and "you owe me attitude" that has taken hold like a tick under America's skin....more info
  • A parent's view
    As a parent, I found this book eye opening. Aren't I the one who takes my kids to soccer and baseball where they get a trophy for simply attending? My daughter's teachers make the parents invite the entire class to a birthday party so no one gets their feelings hurt. This makes me sick! I am so happy that this is not good for them. Our children must grow up in a world where they are not always going to be the best and they are not going to get everything they want. I've have always felt that my kids need to "earn" self esteem by accomplishing something- not for just showing up. This book shows me that it is truly an epidemic out there. I better watch out!!...more info
  • Me, me, me!
    "The Narcissism Epidemic" is an often thought-provoking critique of modern American culture. We're definitely more obsessed with ourselves than decades ago, and it's certainly an uncomfortable experience to read the many examples here and recognize family members, friends, and loved ones. Yet despite the fact that both authors are academic research psychologists, there's an awful lot less psychology in this book than meets the eye. Truth be told, while there are a lot of good research studies on narcissism, both Twenge and Campbell are willing to go far beyond the data to extend their hypotheses to such areas as MySpace, online flamers, and dating websites. A wealth of social psychology and evolutionary psychology research explains these areas far better than Twenge and Campbell's thesis, yet this research is all but ignored by the authors. Many of the chapters rely on the tried-and-true anecdotal approach used in academic critiques of pop culture, often implying empirical support by associating them with unrelated research articles. I'm also annoyed at the almost total lack of chapter references; instead we are given a website to download this information from.

    The book ignores much of the social structure that supports narcissism and allows it to flourish. Yes, the parental and educational influences are clearly labelled. But codependency isn't probed. Nor is the general lack of assertiveness among many people. Narcissists can't run rampant within a society unless they are allowed to. In the chapter on the cult of celebrity, for example, the role of gossip mags as reinforcement for the celebrity narcissist is mentioned. But what about the consumer of such magazines? Some of their support may be that they are allowed to participate vicariously into the lives of someone far more famous and glamorous than they are.

    There's also more than a hint of generation gap angst. College students' narcissism is detailed, but media hungry professors are ignored. Academicians who use the classroom as a soapbox to speak outside their area of expertise are absent. The motives of contemporary youth volunteers is questioned, yet the motives of social protesters in the 1960s isn't. (Anyone who attended any protests knows that it's a great way to meet people and present an image of political awareness!)

    Still, this book does document a pressing social problem, and does it well. It also contains a series of suggestions for reducing or preventing narcissism in your children, your family, and even yourself. This sets it apart from many other finger-wagging books. I enjoyed this book because it forced me to re-examine some of the way I look at certain people in my life. But while Twenge and Campbell do an excellent job of describing the current state of narcissism today, they don't do as good a job convincing me of their central thesis. Narcissism research is superb in demonstrating how narcissists react angrily to criticism and feedback, and how they view themselves as entitled to special treatment. It does not do a very good job of explaining online rudeness, why we obsess over celebrities, behave immaturely, refuse to effectively discipline our children, or treat our current lives as transitional. I recommend this one as an excellent read, but one that must be read with an eye toward alternate explanations.
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  • Excellent Book on Narcissim
    I just read Dr. Pinksy's book called THE MIRROR EFFECT and then read this. If you're a parent, an employer or a counselor, you truly need to read this book! We live in very entitling times, where folks lack true self-esteem and this book, based on Twenge's studies, truly puts it in persective. As an Executive Coach, I deal with narcissim in leaders all the time--now it's nice to have a book to hand someone so they might get at the root of their problems! Filled with great information and ideas you can use to undo a lot of bad parenting, this is an excellent work!...more info
  • Rambling and Disorganized
    I found this to be a very hard read. Its initial discussion of narcissism claims to make a clear distinction between NPD and the narcissistic traits found in our society. The rambling discussion which follows, only muddies the distinction, speaking at length about clinical aspects of NPD that it should have left well enough alone. What is missing is a clear, concise definition of what personality traits the authors think are growing in our society and what is causing them. A concise paragraph or two would have surficed.

    Instead of presenting a clear thesis and using that as its focus, the book rambles forward into a collection of examples and studies that cover far too many topics in too great a depth before struggling back to their relationship to societal narcissism. Discussions that might have been interesting are bogged down by a disorganized presentation style. I repeatedly found myself forgetting what the book was talking about by the time it made its point. I also grew tired of it repeating how certain traits were responsible for our short comings when there was no clear connection between the point being made and the studies presented. I read about halfway through, but couldn't force myself to finish this in spite of a high interest level in the topic and the fact that I agree that we are a narcissitic society.
    ...more info
  • Required Reading for Thinking Americans
    As a retired teacher and someone who is concerned about our culture, I strongly recommend this book. ...more info
  • Interesting...but, now what?
    This book makes a strong case that our society's narcissistic tendencies (Myspace, Facebook, and now with Twitter you can broadcast everything you think or do, mundane or not) are consuming the culture. From the person who reclines his or her airplane seat without regard to those behind to the person with a shopping addiction, the authors make the case in the first 279 pages that narcissism is bad. (Which, by the way, I figured out from the title of the book). The remaining 20 pages focus on "treating the epidemic" with suggestions like "involving yourself in activities that support the values of community and charity, or those that give you an accurate assessment of your abilities without garnering adulation." Selfless volunteering, seems rather obvious to me.

    This book left me looking for more substance... I found lots of generalizations and prescriptions, without a lot of detail to back them up. An interesting read for a quick plane trip, but this isn't going to be the book of the year in 2009....more info
  • THE DEFINITIVE/ONLY REVIEW OF THIS BOOK YOU'LL NEED - BY ME! (just kidding)
    "The Narcissism Epidemic" is a very good book that explores the issue of narcissism, or excessive self-esteem/self-importance, in today's society. Facets of the subject include causes & changes in society that have helped the rise of narcissism, symptoms of narcissism in the world, and possible ways to remedy the problem. The narrative is generally entertaining though I found it occasionally a bit dry/resembling a thesis paper (at least, early on in the book), then sometimes rambling, though the further I got into the book, the easier it seemed to read.

    The most interesting subtopics of narcissism touched on in the book (from my standpoint, since of course I am the final arbiter of taste....hah, that's just some narcissistic humor there), included: examinations of causes of narcissism (including the frequently `extended adolescence' that many have, due to deferral of marriage/kids; also, the educational system that over-strokes children's egos early on, by telling them that they are all `special', and giving everyone a trophy just for showing up); the impact of narcissism vis a vis `easy credit' and how it resulted in over-indulgence in material goods/purchases (and the resulting economic fallout); manifestation of self-entitlement overreach with regard to both credit overspending and people getting in over their heads with mortgages they couldn't afford (due to overconfidence and feelings of entitlement); the phenomena of `celebrity culture' on the public mindset (i.e. `the desire to be rich and famous NOW', without going thru the requisite work & achievement that is required); the contribution of the internet/YouTube/MySpace environment to `feeding the beast' of the "look at me" culture' and actually negatively-impacting `real' relationships, in favor of `superficial' friends; the problem of parents who want to be their childrens' `best friend' and/or `the cool mom/dad', rather than be a parent who lays down the law and exercises good judgment in imposing boundaries on the child (and not letting said child `run the family'); and the decline in manners and civility in society as a result of narcissism (such as `it's all about me' and the anonymity that the internet affords, to level outright rude critiques in chatrooms, etc). A lot of the narrative will confirm your worst suspicions about the bad track society seems to be on, if you're already of the belief that narcissism is a big problem. If you weren't really aware of the problem, it will highlight some manifestations of the problem, which might very well bring you around to agree with the authors' points.

    The authors propose some potential solutions (throughout the book, as well as in the final chapter) to combat the narcissism epidemic, ranging (for example) from enlisting media cooperation to not portray celebrity culture in such a way that people wish to emulate it, to exercising self-control and discipline in one's personal life, to be conscious of when one might be going over to the dark side (as it is, in so many words). Are they realistic solutions? You be the judge.....I'd lay odds it's hard to effect a sea-change in terms of changing the culture, absent some major, major event (remember that even 9/11 didn't refocus the culture on `what's really important', at least not with any permanence), and while there's money to be made by encouraging people to indulge (and over-indulge) themselves. Maybe everyone should just try to be more like me? (ha ha). There's a fine line between healthy self-esteem and being a self-important blowhard.
    ...more info
  • A Must Read Book
    This book should be mandatory reading for all parents and prospective parents, as well as educators, and citizens concerned with the state of the economy as it is relected by narcissistic behaviors. The authors use straight forward language and interesting examples and stories. Their explanations help spouses and children understand the dynamics of living with a narcissist and all the toxic ramifications of such a relationsship. I could not put it down. It helped me understand the hurts of the past imposed on me and others by the narcissists in our lives. It provides guidance to avoid and deal with them in the future. As an educator, I found that it coincided and verified what I have observed to be the trend of the "Me Generation". Using actual studies and statistics the writers share startling facts and trends that need to be addressed and reversed. ...more info
  • Tempest in a Teapot?
    The primary scientific evidence for the existence of an "epidemic of narcissism" involves changes over time (1979 to 2006) in college student scores on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory. However, there is ongoing debate in the psychological literature concerning the merit of this evidence.

    Contrary to what one would expect amidst an "epidemic of narcissism" among college students, evidence indicates that anxiety, external locus of control (being controlled by external forces), volunteering (and for the right prosocial reasons), and spirituality (belief in a higher power, sense of purpose, and compassion)are all increasing, while empathy and agreeableness remain about the same, and medical cosmetic procedures actually decreased by 12% between 2007 and 2008 (for a detailed summary, please see [...]).

    Given this debate, what remains is loads of anecdotal evidence based on selected segments of the population. It makes for fun and interesting reading, but I've been teaching balanced empirical psychology at the college level for 35 years, and I'm not at all convinced that there really is an epidemic of narcissism.
    ...more info
  • A Must Read TEN stars
    Am trying to think who this book isn't for. Every parent who is pregnant or has a new baby should read this book. Every parent of a school age child should read this book. Every high school graduate and even new college graduates should read this book. Growing up in the 50's and 60's I remember when my parents told me that not every one would love me as much as they did, since they knew me and knew my strengths and weaknesses, and that strangers would only see the weaknesses so I better get a tough skin and realize I wasn't the center of the universe.

    My parents had been in college during the great depression and I had come along into their lives after WW2 when both were shy forty years old. And I was almost eighteen years younger than their other child a son. So in essence I was raised as an only child. And this is why I love this book. It challenges the parents and children of 2009 about the dangers of children being reared to think they are so dang important and that they cannot fail. Its in failing at things that one grows and succeeds. Thankfully, my husband and I raised our son much as our parents had raised us.

    And I loved the book because it tells parents their job is to be a parent and not their child's friend. And this means learning to say 'No'. One need only look around and see how many preteens have cell phones, how many children from 9-18 text message all day, rarely talk with parents, and insist on having every new thing that comes along to see this is a book that has value. And the authors information on the connection of narcissism and suicide amongst self absorbed people who all of a sudden slam into the wall of the real world and find they aren't the center of the universe.

    Also love the fact that the authors take on the subject of religion and how mega churches like Joel Osteen of Texas, teach that you that God doesn't create average, and that you are special. Sorry, but this is nonsense. Again I would hope that Christians would read the book and realize that as believers we need to get back to Biblical truths about working hard, suffering, and even losing.

    Sadly the very parents who need to read the book probably will not. ...more info
  • You're not so special; no more "trophies for all"
    This was an interesting discussion of narcissism in modern American society, written in a conversational, colloquial style with plenty of anecdotes drawn from the authors' personal experiences. The authors, both psychology professors, cite example after example of displays of narcissism in American society, exploring the causes and the possible cures. Although the writing is light, witty, and fun to read, the authors relentlessly drive to the conclusion that continued narcissism will lead to utter social collapse, the end of the world as we know it.

    The five primary causes of increased narcisissm are child-centered parenting, celebrity glorification and the media's encouragement of celebrity worship, easy credit, the Internet (a "narcissism multiplier") -- which makes everyone think their blog or youtube video or facebook page or opinion about a book is somehow of interest to others, and the increased focus on self-admiration. Yes, we folks who write reviews on amazon.com are just displaying narcissistic behavior. Although there's a truth running through the discussion, there is also an underlying tone of "back in the good old days, when parents ruled their kids . . . ." I don't think that the authors effectively address the changes in technology -- they just demonize the technology.

    The authors caution parents against telling their children that they're special. No one is special. No one is better than anyone else.
    I liked the book, but I felt like the authors were all over the place with their discussions -- particularly in discussing self-esteem and its relationship to narcissism. Although there was extensive discussion of self-esteem, I never quite understood the authors' definition of self-esteem and how it related to narcisissm.

    The authors got a bit preachy at the end, apocryphal predictions of doomsday stemming from narcissism ("the Chinese will eat our lunch economically" if narcissism continues . . . .) followed by sweeping recommendations on parenting, tax reform, credit reform. Fun to read, interesting, but all over the place -- all of society's woes are attributable to narcisissm.

    ...more info
  • I'm Afraid I've Caught the Narcissism Bug?
    For some time I've been wondering what the attraction of social networks such as MySpace and Facebook and dozens of imitators are all about. My children and most of their friends spend hours and hours on these "tell-all" websites. If I wish to know what my kids are up to, I can check their websites and the websites of their girl friends. My daughter ended up with some stalker problems and wisely cancelled her Facebook listing. I don't check my son's social sites often because I know I may not like what I find posted. Most of it is harmless news, but some of it is too personal for dear old Dad and Mom to want to know. Much of what is shown on many social sites may come back to bite the subject of the material on their rear ends. Employers often check the listings about potential employees.
    Some of my peers spend more time updating their social website listings than improving their business websites. I know that the number of so-call "friends" pictured on their social sites must require them to spend several hours a day corresponding. The business friends justify it as networking and self-promotion for their businesses. I have my doubts. I suspect those friendships are miles wide and a fraction of an inch deep.
    This book is about the fact that the Narcissism Epidemic has hooked millions of people into becoming "Me Addicts." These youngsters are the product of our American culture that glorifies wealth, beauty, glamour and fame and who have been told by their parents and teachers that they are truly outstanding individuals despite any flaws. The "Love Yourself" educational programs they have been brainwashed with throughout their school careers have gone amuck. The students have been protected from reality and turned into spoiled, entitled, and lazy adults. They have traded reality for a world of fantasy. They feel they are entitled. They don't realize that accomplishments come from hard work. They believe there really is "free lunch" for everyone.
    The book's four sections contain seventeen chapters. They describe the problem and it's symptoms and at the book's conclusion offers several possible solutions. The part of the book that I found most interesting was how "the Narcissism Epidemic" is partially responsible for the current economic crisis. "The American society (and political system) actively promotes living beyond your means. You want to appear to be richer, cooler, or more successful than you are. There are no payment for the first 12 months!" That's why the amount of plastic surgery done annually has exploded in only a few years. "The number of plastic surgeons, for example, has tripled since the mid-1970's while the number of physicians has merely doubled." Government policy encourages living beyond one's means by rewarding people for taking on too much debt through easy credit and taxing the heck out of savers. The economic system is broken and needs to be redesigned to reward the producers and savers and instead taxing consumption.
    This very readable book will make its readers wonder if they too are prisoners of the Narcissism Epidemic. While not exactly a page-turner, it is hard to put the book aside for very long. It's full of interesting insights, research results and tests to help you determine your own degree of infection. It confirms many of the feelings and suspicions we've all felt about the current media obsessions with wealth, fame and celebrities....more info
  • Awesome Critique of American Society
    What's wrong with American society today? The Narcissism Epidemic attempts to tackle this question by documenting the nature, scope, sources, and history of the infectious spread of narcissism throughout America. This book is written by a couple of research scientists for a general audience. It offers plenty of shocking examples of egotism run amok in the United States. These copious and entertaining examples single-handedly make the book worth your time if you are not the "intellectual type," but this book goes far deeper for the critical reader. The authors provide a unified account of many ostensibly independent cultural trends in terms of their origin in narcissism. They also propose mechanisms for the spread of narcissism, focusing on among other things the relatively recent changes in the ways that parents raise their children. Also, as you might expect of academic psychologists, the authors take pains to buttress their assertions with credible scientific evidence. Along the way, they dispel myths about narcissists, such as the commonplace that narcissists don't love themselves "deep down inside." Thus, even if you feel you knew it all along that narcissism has regrettably come to define our culture this book will provide you with a much more sophisticated understanding of the true character of the problem. This book is entertaining, important, extremely informative, and always easy to read.

    I recommend this book without reservation.
    ...more info
  • Eye opening, it is an epidemic!!
    This is a great read that anyone can benefit from reading. You don't have to be a psych major to comprehend the information, it's very easy to read and written in an entertaining and light manner.
    The authors heavily discuss how narcissism is bred in, and showing up in, many different arenas and lightly touch on the toll it's taking on society as a whole.
    As a parent, I especially enjoyed the chapter on parenting and the point they make about raising little narcissists. One complaint, I feel they took Dr. Sears' quote(which Sears says in his book when referring to toilet learning) completely out of context in order to reach a pun they were trying to make.
    The chapter on social networking is one that I think could fill a book on it's own!
    This is a very enjoyable read that led me to compare myself and others to the narcissistic traits and behaviors the authors so accurately point out.
    Read it, you won't be sorry you did! (unless you're a narcissist in denial ;)...more info
  • A look at society's narcissism
    "The Narcissism Epidemic" by Dr. Jean Twenge and Dr. Keith Campbell explores rising narcissism in our society. By examining the cultural, psychological, physiological and religious ways of Americans, reasons are given and themes explored on how narcissism is rising in America. Examples are given of how the United States is becoming a sea of extremely high self-esteemed, over indulgent people who do not know how to empathize with others, and who only want the best for themselves. Examples of how to change this "me first" behavior with ourselves and our children are given in the book, although this is brief.

    This book is well written and well researched. It is very humerous in parts as it pokes fun at generation X's self-love that has resulted in addictions, plastic surgery, and the like. It is easy to read for those seeking self-help, and for those of us who are in the "people profession" (counseling, psychology, life coaching).

    My only fault with this book is that I wished the authors spent more time on giving suggestions to parents who want to end this cycle of indulgent, "I'm the center of the world" behavior with their own children (and with themselves). A workbook for clientsto use with this book who have narcissistic issues based on the principles in this book would be great, hopefully one will be available for therapists (like myself) down the road. Another excellent companion to this book, that should be read in addition to this book (and used in therapy for people who might have issues with this) is Dr. Drew Pinsky's The Mirror Effect which is on celebrity narcissism, and how this is increasing rates of narcissism in society as well.

    I have used the above book in therapy with clients who are addicted who have narcissism disorders, and plan to use this book as well to supplement the therapy. ...more info
  • Outstanding overview of Narcissism and its impact
    Simply brilliant.
    This book follows on from the author's previous book "Generation Me", and with the aid of her co-author, another psychologist, manages to extend the description of narcissistic personality and details its impact on multiple areas of our lives. From interpersonal relationships, to recent technological fads (incl. Facebook and MySpace), to the boom in cosmetic surgery, to the real-estate bubble and the subsequent economic recession, just about every relevant aspect of the consequences of untrammeled narcissism is explored here.
    The thoroughness and detail of the research is impressive, the arguments compelling and never one-sided, and the tasteful use of humor, all makes this a must-read winner of a book.
    I can't recommend this highly enough.
    Buy it!...more info
  • Read it, then have your kids read it.
    The Narcissism Epidemic
    In the age of self-promotion and living beyond ones means, I am glad to see it put before us in black and white. The first thing to solve a problem is to realize there is one. Everyone reading this book will gain some insight, we all seem to have one or the other behaviors listed. It makes me view people differently already. I don't agree with everything they say but it is enlightening.
    ...more info
  • Read it, then have your kids read it.
    The Narcissism Epidemic
    In the age of self-promotion and living beyond ones means, I am glad to see it put before us in black and white. The first thing to solve a problem is to realize there is one. Everyone reading this book will gain some insight, we all seem to have one or the other behaviors listed. It makes me view people differently already. I don't agree with everything they say but it is enlightening.
    ...more info
  • They've hit the nail on the head
    This truly is an epidemic, at least in today's United States. The authors have done a masterful job of identifying it, and their examples are irrefutable. The question is, however, what can be done about it? The book's not heavy on solutions, which is why I dock it a star -- not that I have any solutions myself, but in a sense I wonder if this book isn't preaching to the choir, much as Snark does. Still, though, it's nice to see in print what you yourself have been thinking for years....more info
  • Betwixt and Between: The Topic Intriguing, but the Proofs Lacking
    Frequently at the grocery checkout several magazine covers repeatedly featured a certain young blonde woman. She wore exquisitely expensive outfits and carried an expression that reminded me of the snotty girls in high school. One day my husband picked up a magazine, pointed to the cover and asked, "Who is she?" Paris Hilton, of course. His quizzical frown deepened and after another moment he queried bemusedly, "And what has she done?" That was a stumper. I had no idea. Curious I did a bit of asking around and found out that Hilton's claim to fame was an online sex video featuring her adult boyfriend having intercourse with her underage self. Well, that explains it.

    Oh, vey! That is not how young people came to fame in my youth. Usually junior celebrities made a movie, cut an album, or starred in a TV show; admittedly such fame was based upon consumer culture but at least the person had to achieve some measure of success before fame and fortune were granted. Today a tawdry homemade porn video suffices.

    Anecdotally observing that American culture does appear to be more obsessed with selfish superficial traits I was intrigued by the title of Twenge and Campbell's book, "The Narccissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement." After reading I am betwixt and between. I agree that the book's premise is valid but I found some of the material superficial itself.

    - The early distinction between NP (narcissitic personality) vs. NPD(narcissitic personality disorder) was confusingly fastidious. The authors make the disclaimer that NPD can only be diagnosed by a clinician and that they are primarily discussing NP. Then why use the criteria for NPD as a framework for their discourse? Also a true NPD usually never hits a therapist couch. It is the victims of the NPD who enter therapy and most diagnoses take place "in proxy", that means without the actual NPD patient present. (This isn't ideal but then it is the victims who most often go for consultation and the therapist must perforce label the behavior of the victimizer in the service of moving the victim forward in healing.) Knowing this common NPD scenario I wondered how they arrived at the NPD stats of population incidence since clinicians don't exactly have much access to NPD sufferers on which to base a projection.

    - The ten question survey that supposedly measured narcissistic traits was much too transparent. A true NPD would easily give a false reading and I imagine anyone past high school could see through it. I hope that the original forty question survey used as a basis for the book showed greater rigor and sophistication.

    - While reading I asked one of the age-old questions: Are college students an accurate measure of the whole population? If they were taken in by the survey mentioned above then the results are absolutely skewed.

    - One of the primary assertions is that narcissists do not suffer from subconscious low self-esteem as is generally believed. Though it is intriguing to consider that an NPD's self-worth is truly inflated then why are they so hypersensitive to criticism? Their excessive reaction to negative feedback rightly causes others to consider that they are hiding something. Most of our experience with normal people is that they display lesser reactions to criticism and use various mentally healthy defenses that an NPD lacks. Therefore we label the normal person's self-esteem as stronger and more resilent. Hey, if you are already great why waste energy defending? You wouldn't need to. But a narcissist will overreact and for that reason I will continue to agree with mainstream consensus on this one that the narcissistic inflation is a way to cover a true devaluation of the self.

    - The unproven generalization that NP's and NPD's do poorly in the workplace can only be that the author's themselves have spent most of their working life in academia. Selfish superficial people can do amazingly well in the corporate work environment. Current high employee turnover rates favor the narcissist because fewer people really get to know him or her. Also they are masters of manipulation and rarely show their nastier side to a person capable of firing them. It is true that some extreme narcissists cannot hold jobs, but many find that the public sphere richly rewards their seeming self-confidence and appearance orientation.

    - Instead the author's portray everyday employees as narcissistically hopping from job to job, a label I found to be unfair. It could also be argued that corporations act narcissistically when they aggressively cut jobs, health care benefits and adopt an "it's just business" attitude. Individuals are making the necessary allowances to survive in that system. Since generous raises are a thing of the past employees find that they can only substantially increase income by changing employer outright. I felt the topic was much too complex for the scope of this book or to view soley through the lens of narcissism.

    - Another place they overreached their scope was in their take on contemporary churches. Is offering coffee an example of narcissism or is it a way for the modern church to serve and welcome? Are video screens narcissitic or is it what is viewed on the screen that matters? In an attempt to be inclusive the authors are careful to add that atheism and secular humanism promote ethical standards in the same way as mainstream religion. Again, Oh vey! No they don't, they just don't. Those two constructs are not coherent philosophies that embrace the entirety of individual experience. Atheism is limited to the discussion of the existence of God and how much tolerance should be afforded individual beliefs, and nowhere are you going to be able to meet with an organized group of folks who regularly meet and who can explain to you the tenets of the secular humanist life. I do not demean these movements per se but they are not comparable to a religious philosophy which speaks to the entirety of human experience in an organized coherent fashion and provides clear cut standards of moral and ethical behavior.

    This type of sloppy critical thinking left me doubtful and distrusting of the reliability of this work as a true barometer of narcissism in our culture. I believe that the authors have noted an actual phenomena. American culture is moving towards more narcissistic values. The strongest portions of the book are the descriptions of MySpace, Twitter, cell phones and other technologies especially appealing to the college age kids dealt with by the authors daily.

    The authors should have stuck to either cultural anecdotal observation or a detailed scientific discussion. The combination I found confusing and detracted from the work's clarity. The chapters on technology use make it a must read for any parent of a teenager and it remains a good addition to the reading of anyone who has noted and is disturbed by current societal trends. ...more info
  • Conservative Study of a Growing Pandemic
    It is always fascinating to explore somewhat unexplored areas of American culture through constructive reading, however, it is even more interesting to read about something that is not only relatively untouched but affects your life as well.

    Enter The Narcisicm Epidemic (TNE).

    The primary thesis of TNE is that the United States, and subsequently the world, is experiencing a vast epidemic of its people possessing a hyper-inflated view of themselves, a.k.a. narcisim. I can definitely see the effects of narcisim in our society as people are doing seemingly insane things (overly scant myspace pages and posting gang-up videos on youtube) and feel no remorse or sense any wrong doing.

    TNE shows the symptoms of Narcicism Personality Disorder (NPD), how it is visible to the public as a whole, where it is leading us, and how to combat it. This is the basic gist of the book.

    TNE does an excellent job exploring the roots of the self-esteem building movement and how it can lead to an overly-inflated view of the self and dillute the person into thinking they can do more than they really can. They do not downplay self-esteem entirely, but point out that too much can lead to narcicism. Naturelly, the solution is balance between self-esteem and a firm grasp on reality.

    Both authors, considered experts in their field, seemingly do an excellent job in researching their data and fact-checking their statistics, but what they excel in research they fail in citation. Perhaps, as a history graduate student, I cite my works completely differently; however, when I want to critique the sources of the work I'm reading the authors typically tell exactly what sources provided what information with direct citation.

    TNE makes no such effort as they just organize ALL sources in a single bibliography in the back that doesn't even organize sources per chapter. While this may seem proper, it doesn't allow the reader to test the author's sources when they simply say, "we got information X from survey Y" and expect the reader to just trust them on it. As if to try and subsidize this, the authors defer the reader to check out their website for a complete bibliography. This is intellectual laziness. The reader must be allowed to see all data related to the subject even if it adds over a dozen pages to the overall length. Either that or insert direct citations to refer to the end bibliography.

    My next criticism is the overall prose of the paper as well as pop culture references. I can tell it was designed with the general audience in mind given the references to The Simpsons and even South Park. Problem is that, unlike, most people and/or readers are not pop culture historians or even buffs that will get every reference on a whim. The one Simpsons reference in question was made to the "comic book reading" guy, who I was not familiar with, however, TNE referenced it as if everyone knew what he was and made no effort to explain it. This makes getting certain parts all the more difficult for not just me but for the general audience.

    Not to mention the prose was written in a very conversational dialect. While this is tailered to make the book more appealing to the general audience, it does distract the reader somewhat from the overall purpose of the text. It needs to be more scientific and less popular culture referencial.

    All in all, TNE got me more questions at my local coffee shop than any other book I've read. Even at work (Wal-Mart) the attention of the unloaders was temporarily diverted from Dancing with the Stars on the break-room television to my "shiny" book, requiring them to inquire about it further.

    A solid B with most of the docked points relating to an unprofessional bibliography and conversational prose....more info
  • Worthless!
    The authors claims that their book describes the scientific research on narcissism, and that narcissism has led to interest-only mortgages, piles of debt, plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures, performance-enhancing drugs, grade inflation, the social networking explosion, and the national debt. (Global warming was somehow overlooked.)

    One of the main sources of what the authors claim as a rapid growth of narcissism would have to be educators alleging that pupils that feel good about themselves do better in school. Unfortunately, this book contains no material reviewing studies cited by educators in support of their approach. Further, Canadian psychologist Krzesniewski's review of the same data finds no evidence of an uptrend in narcissism from 1976-2006. Thus, the author's conclusions lack credibility and cannot be taken seriously. Ergo - this is nothing more than "junk science."

    True, they cite numerous studies supporting their conclusions - eg. that excess self-confidence (narcissism) leads to poorer academic outcomes, increased short-term success as leaders (but not long-term). But that's not nearly as valuable as also addressing studies that lead to opposing conclusions, and explaining their anomalous findings.

    As for asserting that narcissism is responsible for the national debt, interest-only mortgages, performance-enhancing drugs, our rising national and trade deficits, etc. - what about alternative rational explanations such as trying to better oneself, or the viewpoints of some economists and financial experts that support these trends?

    I did appreciate the authors' citing lack of progress on 17-year-olds' NAEP scores from 1976-2006 - math scores rose from 304 to 307, while reading held steady at 285 (< 1% improvement). So much for doubling inflation-adjusted per pupil spending over that same time period!

    Finally, "Seeing the Elephant" included a chart showing that psychology is the least preferred field of study for foreign students (11%) - perhaps due to lack of rigor and value . . .? (Education - 13%, science and engineering - 45%, computer science 65%, engineering 68%.)...more info
  • not as deep as you'd like.
    I've been teaching in college for twelve years now, and my colleagues and I have in the last three or four years found ourselves *constantly* baffled by our students. It's not that typical thing that every generation feels that the next generation is a slide down into moral turpitude and decay, it dealt with how to reach them--teaching techniques and activities we've done for years no longer work. Students fail exams, don't hand in papers, and expect to get an A in the class. Students get irate when even politely corrected about their behavior ("Steve, could you please put your cell phone away? It's class time now and your group needs your help.") This book I'd hoped would offer answers and some comfort.

    I think they did a quite good job *not* scapegoating young folks, and proving that narcissism is really a cultural problem that every generation of Americans is infected with, to a greater or lesser degree. That's an important corrective to many people's perceptions, and I have to admit it was somewhat comforting that it's not just me: I'm not the only educator confounded about how to reach these students.

    They end many of the later chapters with suggestions, many of which are either common sense (parents, please say no to your children every now and again) or are kind of silly (we should utilize narcissism to get people to volunteer?) That latter kind of advice, based on the model of the popularity of repackaged religion in megachurches, seems a bit cynical and manipulative, and also rather ironic, since they decry the cheap and shallow narcissistic religion of those very megachurches. So if ego-driven religion is bad...ego-driven volunteerism is...good? How's that now?

    The first half of this book, and a few of the later chapters, such as the one on the antisocial behavior rife on the internet, are fresh and fascinating, but sometimes the authors try to push an agenda a bit beyond the scope of the book. First, it's a huge stretch for me to connect a book on narcissism to environmental issues. It seems beyond the topic of the book. Second, it is the *only* public service or 'outside your self' issue they ever seem to notice--they don't seem capable of imagining volunteering to feed homeless people or candystripe or anything like that. Third, if you think the way to volunteering is to repackage so that the volunteer gets his or her ego needs met (feeding the narcissism) then why don't these 'experts' suggest ways we could repackage some volunteer efforts *beyond* celebrities driving Priuses?! And while it's nice to finally learn what negative amortization is, and I'm willing to believe narcissism may have had a contributory cause to the current economic...erm...situation, the book seems to insist it's *all* about narcissism. Oh, and you should be pro 'fair tax'. Yet in that same chapter as they say this stuff, they disingenously claim their apolitical. Riiiiiiiiight.

    It's an interesting book, though most of the research is meta-analysis of other studies, of which we cannot judge the quality. The solutions seem thin and hard to implement and ideologically all seem to work to the idea of feeding the epidemic. The book raises more questions and issues than it answers, but still, it brings the topic to the table. Even if you hate this book and disagree with everything it says, you are engaging in the issue in a way that cannot help but be useful in the long run. ...more info
  • Not as good as it needed to be
    Exasperating, repetitive, tedious, silly, glib, superficial, repetitive, pompous and very informative

    Oh, what a rigorous editor could have done with this book! There are many good ideas buried in here; ideas so good I will suggest my children read this. However, there is so much sloppy thinking and trite analysis that the excellence is nearly overwhelmed by the wretched. I can compare this book to "A Bee in the Mouth" by Peter Wood, a book with a similar basis, but far beyond this slight effort. Wood identified that while anger has been around since the beginning of time, there is a cultural shift that is occurring before our eyes, where anger, once seen as negative to be overcome, is now becoming valid in its own right, and even admirable. How did this happen? What does it mean? Good questions, good analysis, good book.

    The authors here also note a disturbing cultural change. Narcissism has become mainstream, the once shunned attitude now proudly advertised. Madame Bovary was seen as a pitiable character, driven by a weak vanity and a wild disregard for others. Now she would be viewed as a role model for young girls eager to have it all! But the nomenclature is vague. For instance, does conspicuous consumption equal narcissism? Is vanity narcissism? Selfishness? Is corporate fraud a symptom of narcissism? I think it's simpler than that; it is evil, and evil has been around for a long, long time. But the authors seem to imply that self-interest is narcissism. So, though they wish our students to know about Adam Smith rather than Braveheart, they forget Smith's most famous statement, that it is self-interest that brings your bread to your table, not altruism. The analysis is often trite, resorting to the deadly adjective to close the argument, e.g., consumerism is always crass and SUVs are gas-guzzling. The organization is seriously lacking, as points resurface and then disappear. The historical analysis seems taken from People magazine. The 20s are described as another narcissistic decade. Really? For whom? The .01% of the population wearing raccoon coats and drinking bathtub gin? This kind of drive-by high school level discussion would be better left out. The conclusions often seem extreme from the data given. How many students have cheated? Well, I have. Several times. Though I now would not cheat, I did in the past. So am I a narcissist? Was I then? The one-time-taint of such studies makes them, to me, uninformative. "Have you ever drank until you passed out?" is a very different question from "Have you passed out from drinking more than five times this month?" The arguments are often vague, and the suggestions are full of the fluffiest "shoulds" I've read in a long time.

    I could write a lengthy piece about what is wrong with this, but let's limit it to the most important. First, is it narcissistic to advertise your degree on the cover, the title page, and the inside back jacket? Does calling yourself Ph.D. repeatedly qualify as vain? I happen to think it does. Apparently these authors disagree. Maybe they learned, or their publisher learned, that using those letters brought more credibility and more sales. OK, so though narcissistic, they work. Does that make them right? If their goal is to get sales, it does. Likewise for the blustering, vain, selfish and arrogant jerks described throughout this book. Their techniques work. While our authors repeatedly tell us that these creeps will suffer the consequences of their vanity, Donald Trump, Madonna, and Paris Hilton seem to show us that that might be wishful thinking.

    Enough with the environmental yammering! These are complicated topics, subject to extremely complex disagreements among physicists and biologists. While narcissism is a pain in human relationships, why bring in the complex climatic changes going on and lay them at narcissism's door? It is all so straightforward for these authors. Green = good. But can you, with your psychology degrees, really tell us enough science to explain the various and complicated aspects of global warming and other environmental disasters? Is it so easy to identify what is green? I say no. Stay with what you know, please?

    And quit expecting the schools to fix everything. You want to add this and that to the curriculum, while complaining about the loss of "Civics." More crap about spending and saving and shopping and compassion. The values of the teachers will inevitably get in on this. Like sex education, though it superficially looks like a good idea, as soon as someone starts teaching that you don't approve of, oh boy! Let's try to teach real math, and let the poor students make their own moral judgments.

    And yet, the core ideas, and the (sometimes obscured) analysis are wonderful, or, if you're like me and keep your knowledge of contemporary culture to the barest minimum, frightening. The self-esteem movement is nuts. Let's scream it from the housetops. I taught for several years at an inner city high school. My training had inculcated the idea that bad behavior was the manifestation of low self-esteem. But the arrogant, preening, obnoxious and vulgar thugs I met did not seem to have low self esteem; their self esteem seemed to be soaring. I asked an "expert" about this apparent discrepancy, and was told that it was a mask. But it is a good one I replied. How do you know they suffer from low self-esteem? Because they misbehave. A perfect tautology, and one I immediately discredited. Well, I hope everyone tosses this evil idea away. It has made a shambles of our schools and playing fields, and will only get worse as we mis-diagnose the cause as the cure. Many other valid and interesting points, many informative examples, many helpful ideas. What this could have been is disappointingly far from what it is, but it still has merit.

    James Clark, MA...more info
  • Reads Like a Bloated Term Paper
    In his book On Writing Well, William Zinsser asserts that 50% of our writing can be cut without harming it. This book is a perfect example. (My review probably is too.) The Narcissism Epidemic is 303 pages, not counting the Acknowledgments and Bibliography, and that's about 150 too many.

    The authors can't make up their minds on tone. Do they want to give statistics and address the reader as if he were a college professor with the power to turn down or approve a dissertation, or do they want to use an informal, warm style, talking to us as if we're equals? They aren't sure. Then there are the statistics, and so many of them. Chapter One, page one: "80% of recent college students..." "93% of late 2000s tweens..."three out of four [students] report..." "younger generations are also marketedly higher..." While I was reading I was thinking, what is a "recent college student"? What is a "tween"? What kind of word is "marketedly"?

    After a few pages, I put The Narcissism Epidemic aside and picked up a book I hadn't read since I was 18: Catch Me If You Can by Frank W. Abagnale. It begins, "A man's alter ego is nothing more than his favorite image of himself..." I'd rather read a well-written book by a narcissist than a poorly written one on narcissism itself.

    ...more info

 

 
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