Psychological and Neural Correlates of Social Affect and Cognition in Narcissism: A Multimethod Study of Self-Reported Traits, Experiential States, and Behavioral and Brain Indicators

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


“Lack of empathy” is a diagnostic criterion of narcissism, but the nature of interpersonal functioning in narcissism is still being debated. Both, empathy and narcissism, are multidimensional constructs, and their relation might depend upon contextual factors. We investigated social affect and cognition in narcissism spanning self-reported traits and experiential states (Ecological Momentary Assessment) as well as behavioral and brain indicators (task-related functional magnetic resonance imaging). N = 140 individuals were selected to cover the full dimensional range of grandiose and vulnerable narcissism, including their constituent self-regulatory dimensions of agentic, antagonistic, and neurotic narcissism. Grandiose narcissism was associated with lower social affect at almost all analysis levels. The associations can be attributed to antagonistic self-regulatory dynamics, and are associated with lower brain activation during subjective experiencing of social affect in regions of the salience network. Social cognition was habitually lowered but not impaired in antagonistic narcissism. Our findings do not support a general “lack of empathy.”


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157–171
Number of pages15
JournalPersonality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024

External IDs

PubMed 38095994
ORCID /0000-0002-9375-2222/work/159608557
ORCID /0000-0003-2906-7471/work/159608917


Sustainable Development Goals


  • empathy, narcissism, perspective taking, social affect, social cognition