Sunday, April 22, 2007

Psychology news: Undeserved praise related to narcissism?

In a recent Wall Street Journal piece, Jeffrey Zaslow addressed the interesting problem of offering too much praise. The corporate and academic fad of praising people - even for showing up on time (like, clocks are a rare and illegal substance these days?) Has, some fear, resulted in a spate of people who need constant praise just to function. That sounds to me like an addiction, but read the article for yourself and decide. Zaslow quotes Jean Twenge, author of Generation Me:
Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled - and More Miserable than Ever Before.. She would like to put a stop to meaningless praise, as just another undesirable urban noise - if it did not contribute to narcissism:
Certainly, there are benefits to building confidence and showing attention. But some researchers suggest that inappropriate kudos are turning too many adults into narcissistic praise-junkies. The upshot: A lot of today's young adults feel insecure if they're not regularly complimented.
America's praise fixation has economic, labor and social ramifications. Adults who were overpraised as children are apt to be narcissistic at work and in personal relationships, says Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University. Narcissists aren't good at basking in other people's glory, which makes for problematic marriages and work relationships, she says.
Her research suggests that young adults today are more self-centered than previous generations. For a multiuniversity study released this year, 16,475 college students took the standardized narcissistic personality inventory, responding to such statements as "I think I am a special person." Students' scores have risen steadily since the test was first offered in 1982. The average college student in 2006 was 30% more narcissistic than the average student in 1982.

Well, I am with Twenge on that one. The whole thing is really kind of simple and predictable. Most of us discount expected noise. So we don't count "good job!" if we hear it all the time. We have to hear "great job!" to think we are being praised. But what if we always hear "great job!"? Trust me:

So it is time to put this "praise" fad out of its misery, while we still have usable dictionaries.

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