Hypervigilance to Self-Threat: Further Experimental Evidence for the Mask Model of Narcissism

Mark Hardaker, Constantine Sedikides, Elias Tsakanikos

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Abstract

According to the mask model, narcissists portray a hard exterior, but possess a soft core. The narcissistic self is fragile. This presumed fragility has been typically operationalized as a discrepancy between explicit and implicit self-esteem, producing inconsistent findings. A reason for the inconclusiveness of over two decades of research may be that narcissism was tested in situ. An important exception is work by Horvath and Morf (2009), who obtained support for the mask model under conditions of self-threat in sequential priming task followed by a lexical decision task. We report an experiment (N = 209) where we test the replicability of their findings with a larger sample and several methodological alterations. In replication, narcissists manifested hypervigilance or defensiveness (i.e., faster reaction times to self-threatening stimuli). However, given ampler time (235 ms as opposed to 149 ms), narcissists switched from defensiveness to self-regulation (i.e., equivalent reaction times to those of non-narcissists). This switch, being rapid and difficult to detect, may explain in part the prior inconclusive findings. Despite transient intrapersonal turbulence in response to self-threat, narcissists quickly regain their composure and re-establish their granite exterior.
© 2019, Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. The attached document (embargoed until 21/09/2020) is an author produced version of a paper published in SELF AND IDENTITY uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self- archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at the link. Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.

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