Individualism and The Better Than Average Effect: The moderating role of Narcissism
Else Oosterdijk (12304328) Bachelor’s Thesis
Bachelor Business Administration Faculty of Economics and Business Track:
Management in the Digital Age Supervisor: Rob van Hemert Date: 30th of June 2021 Wordcount: 8291
Statement of originality
This document is written by Student Else Oosterdijk who declares to take full responsibility for the contents of this document.
I declare that the text and the work presented in this document are original and that no sources other than those mentioned in the text and its references have been used in creating it.
The faculty of Economics and Business is responsible solely for the supervision of completion of the work, not for the contents.
Table of Contents
Statement of originality ... 2
Abstract ... 4
Introduction ... 5
Literature Review ... 8
Literature gap and research question ... 15
Method and Data ... 19
Results ... 24
Discussion ... 30
Conclusion ... 35
References ... 36
Appendix ... 40
The Better than Average-effect (BTAE) is the tendency for people to overestimate their abilities, attributes, and personality traits in comparison with their peers. This phenomenon appears to be pancultural and applicable to everyone. This study examines the effect of the personal level of individualism on the BTAE of multiple characteristics: Kindness, Honesty, Intelligence, Sociability, Extraversion and Agreeableness. Proposed is that a higher level of individualism results in the presence of self-enhancing features such as a sense of uniqueness and self-efficacy. More specifically, it is hypothesized that a high level of individualism leads to a higher BTAE. In addition, it is hypothesized that Narcissism heightens the effect of the personal level of individualism on the BTAE. The first hypothesis was not supported for the characteristics, only for Extraversion. This contributes to the belief that the BTAE is universal and makes no distinction regarding culture. The second hypothesis was supported for the characteristics Honest, Sociable and Intelligence, suggesting that Narcissism leads to a higher self-evaluation and, therefore, a higher BTAE.
Do you ever feel like you are one of the most intelligent, most loyal or the most attractive people in the room? Well, you are not the only one! It is a widespread phenomenon called ‘The Better than Average Effect’ (BTAE). This phenomenon occurs when people overestimate their own capabilities and characteristics compared to their peers (Alicke & Govorun, 2005). With the increasing use of social media, it is easier to compare your life with others since much more information is accessible. Many people base their self-worth on comparisons to others (Festinger, 1954). This can result in an upsetting self-image since others only share the highlight of their lives and appear to have a perfect life (Andreassen et al., 2017). Luckily the human brain has a way of self-protection that can fix this problem, by constructing the BTAE.
The BTAE is a way of self-protection against others. By putting yourself above your peers, you create a power distance and feel overall happier with yourself since you believe you perform above average (Sedikides et al., 2003). Self-protection is a basic human principle applicable to everyone, men, women, youngsters, and the elderly from all cultures (Zell 2020).
Previous research taps into the effect of cultural differences and the BTAE; Zell (2020) found evidence for the BTAE in both individualistic and collectivistic cultures. So, the role of individualism on the BTAE has been researched before. The distinction between a western individualistic culture in America and an eastern collectivistic culture in Asia was made.
However, during this research, the researchers did not consider that people from the collectivistic culture might have a different view and personally hold individualistic beliefs (Beck, 2012). Thus, it is important to also investigate the personal level of individualism of respondents. Therefore, the first research question will be: ‘Is there a direct positive effect between the level of individualism and the magnitude of the BTAE when looking at characteristic traits?’
Secondly, narcissism is increasing in the current society, especially due to an increase of social-media use (Campbell & Twenge, 2015). Due to an increase in narcissism, more people are convinced they are the best and belong at the top of society (Campbell & Sedikides, 1999).
This belief and the qualities that narcissists often possess, such as a sense of uniqueness and intelligence, make narcissism an interesting variable to research in relation to the BTAE. An increase in narcissism will likely lead to an increase in self-view and therefore, and, increase in the BTAE (John & Robins, 1994). Some of the qualities that come with narcissism are also linked to individualism. For example, individualists also often believe they are more intelligent and believe they are a unique individual (Lukes, 2006). This makes it interesting to research whether narcissism heightens these beliefs of individualists and, as a result, will lead to an increased positive effect on the BTAE on characteristics.
Therefore, the second research question will be: ‘Is the relationship between a person's level of individualism and the magnitude of the BTAE moderated by a person's level of narcissism?’
This study uses quantitative research by examining primary data retrieved from surveys.
Out of the results can be concluded that there is sufficient evidence to say that there is a direct effect between individualism and the BTAE on Extraversion. For the BTAE on Honesty, Sociable, Kindness, Intelligence, Agreeableness there is not sufficient evidence to say that there is a direct effect between individualism and the BTAE. Moreover, there is evidence for the moderating effect of narcissism on individualism on the BTAE on Honesty, Sociability &
Intelligence. There is not sufficient evidence to say that there is a moderating effect of narcissism on individualism on the BTAE on Kindness, Extraversion & Agreeableness. This study will contribute to the existing literature by investigating the influence of the personal level of individualism on the BTAE by examining which role egocentrism, gender, age and especially narcissism plays in this.
First, this paper will look at the existing literature. Secondly, a literature gap and research question will be developed, focusing on what is missing in the current literature. After that, data will be retrieved, and this data will be used in statistical analyses to find out whether there is support for the two hypotheses. Lastly, the results will be discussed, and practical implications will be given based on these results.
This section will discuss the existing literature regarding the BTAE, individualism, narcissism, and egocentrism. First, the BTAE will be discussed. Research has already been conducted on this topic; however, the outcomes are not univocal. Therefore, it is essential to gain additional knowledge. Secondly, individualism and its effect on people's behavior will be discussed. In addition, an explanation will be given on why it is important to look at one's personal level of individualism instead of a culture-wide approach. Thirdly, it will be argued why narcissism is an interesting moderator when measuring the BTAE. The last topic will be egocentrism and the importance of the distinction between egocentrism and narcissism.
The better than average effect
The BTAE, where people conceive themselves as more competent and overall better than most other people, has been widely studied. This phenomenon is applicable to everyone since it is gender and age-neutral. Apart from children, since they have not been researched profoundly yet, people of all ages rate themselves better than average (Zell & Alicke, 2011). Even though there are slight differences in outcome, there is no significant difference between men and women. This means that both men and women maintain unrealistically optimistic images about themselves in relation to others. (Zell & Alicke, 2011). The BTAE occurs when people estimate their abilities, attributes, and personality traits. When evaluating these abilities, attributes and personality traits, people tend to prejudice their self-evaluations in a positive direction (Alicke & Sedikides, 2011). This is especially true for traits that lack an objective definition and are not controllable such as honesty or loyalty (Alicke, 1995).
The BTAE lies within the scope of the social comparison theory. This theory entails three primary facets; motivation for self-evaluation or self-protection, the person with whom
comparisons are made, and the aspect evaluated, such as the behavior, trait, or attitude (Festinger, 1954).
There are motivational contributors and cognitive mechanisms that lead humans to the BTAE. It is human nature to want to be better than others, this desire for positive self-views underlies the BTAE. People like to perceive themselves as a good person and do so by scoring themselves better than average (Zell, 2020). One of the cognitive mechanisms for the BTAE is the level of egocentrism, focus on the individual will lead to an overestimation of their own abilities and an underestimation of other people’s abilities (Zell, 2020). Another cognitive mechanism is focalism, this entails that people overemphasize the characteristics and abilities of the focal object during comparisons. In most research question the focal object is the self.
Researches try to minimalize this by placing the average person in the focal position instead of the self (Zell, 2020). The final explanation for the BTAE is the generalized-group account. This refers to the phenomenon that that people view individuated object such as the self or a specified people as better than a generalized person, such as the average peer (Zell, 2020).
In order to obtain more reliable results, researchers are prone to use the indirect method instead of the direct method (Zell, 2020). With the direct method, respondents are asked to compare themselves to their peers. Based on that score, there either is a BTAE, or there is not a BTAE. When applying the indirect method, researchers first ask respondents to scale their own abilities and then ask them to scale the abilities of their peers. These scores are subtracted and reveal either a positive BTAE, a worse than average effect or no effect at all (Zell, 2020).
The studies about the BTAE also show that people with the least ability are most likely to overestimate their abilities (Dunning, 2011). They believe they know something even though they barely have any knowledge about the matter. This misconception about the rank of their performance is called the Dunning-Kruger effect. These people are likely to make mistakes and reach poor decisions since their knowledge gap prevents them from catching their errors.
However, when people acquire mediocre knowledge about a subject, they start to see that they are not perfect and might not be performing as well as they thought. This self-reflection will lead to a decreased BTAE. They have enough knowledge to know that they are not experts and that there are enough subjects that they are not knowledgeable of. This trend continues; people who are the most capable are more likely to downgrade their performance. They are experts, but they often make the mistake to think that most other people have the same amount of knowledge. Therefore, they will score themselves lower than their peers and thus than their actual rank (Dunning, 2011).
Nowadays, the western society is getting more and more individualistic (Huynh &
Grossmann, 2020). Individualism is measured through a comparison with collectivism, which is the exact opposite of individualism. When a person is collectivistic, the group or society as a whole is the main focus, whereas, with individualism, the individual is the most important party (Oyserman et al., 2006). This increase in individualism results in a more segregated society where people mainly look out for themselves and their near relatives. When people are individualistic, it is easier for them to estrange themselves from existing groups and corresponding boundaries and rules, as individualism implies impermanence (Oyserman, 2006). Therefore, individualism ensures more distance between people and hinders cooperation between individuals (Oyserman, 2006). Lack of familiarity, which is a result of individualism, leads to a more flawed image and less confidence in their fellow citizens (Hofstede & Minkov, 2010). When there is a distance between people, they lose touch with what is perceived as average and people will rank themselves disproportionally. This distance affects the BTAE since people tend to place themselves more accurately when they know the people they compare themselves to (Alicke & Govorun, 2005). In addition to this, individualism will increase a
person's self-esteem (Baumeister, 1998). The increased self-confidence that often comes with individualism will most likely also increase people's self-evaluation. These two consequences of individualism are interesting in relation to the BTAE.
Many different factors make up the level of individualism, such as outlook on family, coworkers, neighbours and friends (Hui, 1988). These different relations have a different weight for each person and, therefore, people choose to behave differently. Because of these different kinds of relationships, there is no simple way to measure the level of individualism. Even the most individualistic people can have a divergent score on one specific aspect (Hui, 1988). Apart from focusing on the level of individualism compared to different relationships, there is a broader division within individualism. There are two levels of individualism, vertical individualism and horizontal individualism. Vertical individualism concerns the autonomy of the individual; it emphasizes and accepts the inequality between people. Whereas horizontal individualism also includes the individual's autonomy but emphasizes the equality between people (Singelis et al., 1995). This difference in the view on equality between people leads to a different culture within the individualistic culture. On the one hand, vertical individualists believe in competition and in outperforming others. They believe that everyone is different and that it is only logical that this results in people having different ranks within society (Singelis et al., 1995). On the other hand, horizontal individualists believe that everyone is equal. They are more focused on themselves and ensuring their own happiness, instead of creating happiness by feeling better or more accomplished than someone else.
Narcissism is a personality disorder where someone seeks constant admiration and validation and must be the centre of attention in social settings (Emmons, 1987). In some cases, this constant need is the result of insecurities and a sense of inferiority. Nevertheless, in most cases, people actually believe their idealized self-image and feel like they are entitled to admiration and gratification (Freud, 2014). Narcissism is one of the three dark triad personality traits and makes it hard for people who have this disorder to have functioning relationships with people around them (Thomaes et al., 2009).
Narcissism is very topical; with prominent leaders such as Donald Trump and Putin, the world is exposed to high profile textbook narcissists. This led to heightened attention for narcissism, and various new research about narcissism in this day and age was done (Keye, 2021). Campbell & Twenge (2015) already concluded that the rising use of social media leads to a more narcissistic society. In the past six years, the use of social media only increased, resulting in an even more narcissistic society. However, subsequent to developing the characteristic yourself, narcissism is also strongly linked to upbringing. Parents can over evaluate their kids by applauding every minor accomplishment and making their child believe that they are the most extraordinary human being on this planet (Thomeas et al., 2009). Because children get used to constant validation from their parents, they continue to seek validation later on in life since they feel incomplete without it. Moreover, they feel like they are entitled to it, from their point of view, they are unique, feel important and have a sense of grandiosity that needs to be recognized by others (Thomaes et al., 2009). Narcissism is an ongoing personality process, which requires constant enhancing and validation of existing grandiose self-views.
Narcissistic tend to form social interactions to come out as the superior party by placing themselves on a pedestal to receive the attention and admiration they so desperately need (Morf
& Rhodewalt, 2001).
Narcissists can have different reactions when they do not obtain this much-needed recognition. There is a distinction between covert and overt narcissists (Cain et al., 2007).
Covert narcissists are introverts prone to experience negative emotions, such as shame, which leads them to withdraw from others when they do not receive recognition. Overt narcissists are self-absorbed extraverts prone to deny or block negative experience from conscious awareness by becoming angry and expressing this anger in the form of aggression against others (Bushman et al., 2009). To cope with these negative emotions, most narcissists reconstruct past experiences in such a way that flatters them and puts down the other parties. However, this reaction is counter-productive since other people will not be inclined to pay compliments to a person who puts them down. This results in a vicious circle of constantly not receiving the praise they seek and finding ways to obtain it. It is complex to break this circle; therefore, narcissists are highly inventive to find ways to maintain their magnificent self-view.
Egocentrism and narcissism are often confused by people; they tend to mix the concepts and not use them correctly. However, they are two very different concepts, and it is difficult to compare the two. A narcist, who has a personality disorder, is someone who loves themselves and thinks they are better than everyone else. An egocentrist however, even though his main concern is himself, does not perse feel the need to be better than others and does not seek constant validation. Egocentrists do not rely on the approval of others; they believe they are simply the centre of attention (Chandler, 1973). Egocentric people find it difficult to emphasize with other people and have a hard time believing that people might have a different vision than they do. They believe that their perception is also the perception of all other people and thus the reality. This faulty belief makes it hard for egocentric people to accurately assume or understand any perspective other than oneself (Elkind, 1967). This leads egocentrists to
overemphasize their own abilities and to neglect the abilities of other's during comparative judgement (Zell, 2020)
In contrast, narcissists are able to see the difference in perspective or view but decide not to pay attention to these differences. However, since egocentrism is not a personality disorder, people can work to become less egocentric. Research shows that children do not yet have the tools to recognize that their egocentric feelings are wrong and, therefore, do not correct them. In comparison, adults do have these tools and can suppress these thoughts and feelings and act accordingly (Elkind, 1967). It is possible to catch your egocentric thoughts and correct them. Narcissism goes beyond egocentrism. For narcissists this possibility does not exist, it is much harder to choose to neglect or correct narcissistic thoughts than it is for egocentrics thoughts (Kohut, 1966).
Literature gap and research question
Individualism and the BTAE
The BTAE has been widely studied; research shows that self-enhancement and the BTAE are universal (Zell, 2020). Even in modest and collectivistic cultures in Asia, evidence was found to back up the BTAE (Zell, 2020). This is interesting since a cultural difference can lead to a very different perception of personalities traits, values and beliefs and, therefore, very different outcomes. Culture is a big part of one’s personality (Hofstede, 1980). Nevertheless, some desires, such as self-enhancement, are universal, fundamental human behavior and are not linked to a specific culture. However, the researchers looked at people’s overall culture, not how people personally identify with their culture. The researchers measured someone’s culture by stating their country of residence or origin (Zell, 2020). Here is a research gap, just because someone lives in Asia does not per se make them modest or collectivistic. It can also be measured on a personal level since people can have different opinions and evaluations regardless of the dominant culture of the country they live in.
One way to differentiate cultures is the difference in the level of individualism vs collectivism (Hofstede, 1980). Since multiple research papers indicate that people differ their own rank depending on whom they compare themselves with (Zell et al., 2020). It would be interesting to look at how individualistic vs collectivistic the participants compare themselves.
These are very different ways to look upon life, and people treat each other differently. For example, in Asia, they are a lot more collectivistic than in the Western world. These differences become apparent in the level of hierarchy the Asian countries have, where the elderly are treated with the utmost respect (Oyserman et al., 2006). This personal level of cultural difference could lead to a different estimation of other people’s capabilities, status and performance, consequently affecting how they view and score themselves (Kurman, 2003). Zell (2020) describes the presence of the BTAE in eastern collectivistic cultures such as China. The BTAE
differed related to the nature of the traits. Whereas the collectivistic cultures showed a BTAE on traits that are valued highly in these cultures, such as cooperativeness and loyalty, the BTAE for individualistic traits, such as independence and uniqueness, was significantly smaller.
Individualistic people also ranked themselves high with collectivistic characteristic traits, and there was no significant difference between individualists and collectivists (Zell, 2020). This implies that people from individualistic countries indeed think they are better at everything, or at least rank themselves higher than others.
On the one hand, most people who show a high level of individualism believe themselves to be superior to their peers (Baumeister, 1998). Besides this, individualism highlights human differences, such as the awareness of the unequal distribution of valued characteristics (Oyserman, 2006). Therefore, it might be likely that individualistic people will rank themselves more favorably compared to their peers. However, does this also imply that people who have a lower level of individualism will think they are less competent and score themselves lower? On the other hand, individualism implies that judgment is generally orientated toward the person rather than the social context situation. “Since the decontextualize self is assumed to be a stable casual nexus” (Oyserman, 2006). This means that individualistic people would not have the knowledge needed about their peers to estimate their capabilities accurately. Therefore, this research is valuable since it is unclear what a personal level of individualism will mean for the BTAE.
The level of BTAE can affect the work environment. For example, hardly anybody likes to work with arrogant people who believe they are better than the rest, especially when this belief is unfounded and inaccurate (Johnson et al., 2010). Therefore, a high BTAE could result in unpleasant situations in the workplace. This makes the research about individualism and the BTAE valuable for employers to consider. Namely, when hiring employees and possibly letting solicitants undergo a personality test to ensure a good work environment.
Question 01: Is there a direct positive effect between the level of individualism and the magnitude of the BTAE when looking at characteristic traits?
The moderating role of Narcissism
As mentioned before, society is getting more and more narcissistic, which means narcissism is very relevant, therefore, it is an interesting variable to consider (Campbell &
Twenge, 2015). Furthermore, narcissism is a personality trait that has been linked to the BTAE before (Alicke et al., 1995). Narcissism increases the perception of the self-image and, therefore, the perception of certain characteristics of interest when looking at the BTAE; sense of uniqueness, intelligence and self-efficacy (Freud, 2014). A higher level of these characteristics can lead to a more positive self-evaluation since these qualities make people believe they are better than others (Alicke et al., 1995). Individualist and narcissists often both believe they are unique and intelligent. Since the sense of uniqueness can lead to a higher perception of one's capabilities and magnify individualism on the BTAE. Possessing both individualism and narcissism would in theory result in a higher sense of uniqueness, intelligence and self-efficacy, which will heighten the BTAE. However, where individualists focus on themselves, narcissists rely on others for validation. They need others to validate that they are indeed better than average, do they also believe themselves to be better than average without this validation. Therefore, the moderating effect of Narcissism over the effect of individualism on the BTAE would be interesting to research.
Question 02: Is the relationship between a person's level of individualism and the magnitude of the BTAE moderated by a person's level of narcissism?
H0= Personal level of individualism has no effect on the magnitude of the BTAE.
H1= Personal level of individualism has a positive effect on the magnitude of the BTAE.
H2= Narcissism heightens the effect of personal level of individualism on the BTAE.
Individualism Better Than Average
Effect on characteristics Narcissism
Method and Data
To answer the research questions, I will conduct quantitative research using primary data retrieved from a survey. For this study, a quantitative research is used. The reason for the choice for a quantitative research design is that quantitative research uses a large amount of data in order to articulate facts and reveal patterns since it is easier to test a large group. Also, quantitative research is control-sensitive, objective and focused. It is also more structured and therefore repeatable. For this research a cross-sectional survey design was used, which consisted of Likert scales and demographical questions. The reason for the choice for a cross- sectional design was made because this is the most convenient way of sampling. Since there was a short time span to retrieve many participants and no budget available, this was the best option. Apart from the convenience, a cross-sectional design allows complex situations to be mapped since it is possible to measure many variables at once. Since this research investigates many different variables, this possibility is a necessity. With Likert scales it is assumed that the strengths/intensity of an attitude is linear, and it is measured on a continuum with a point scale, where each point is associated with a numerical value.
Sample and procedure
For this study non-random convenience sampling was used: participants were sampled through personal contacts of Bachelor students at the University of Amsterdam. A total of 200 respondents was desired in order to obtain valid results. The data was collected over a period of 2 weeks, which lead to 222 respondents. After filtering and deleting missing data, the survey counted 197 respondents. The survey that was distributed was part of a multiple studies, so the survey measures more than the variables examined in this particular study.
Individualism. Individualism was measured through the 10-item scale of Singelis et al.,
(1995). All questions were recorded on a 9-point Likert scale, one item was reverse coded, this item was recoded to fit the scale (1= never or definitely no; 9=always, or definitely yes).
Example items are “I often do my own thing” and “What happens to me is my own doing”. The scale showed sufficient reliability as the α =0.74. The scores ranged from 2.63 to 7.44 (M=
5.17, SD= 1.03).
BTAE on characteristics. The BTAE on characteristics was measured through the indirect
method since this is more reliable than the direct method. Respondents were asked two questions with a 10-point scale (1= not at all; 10= very much):
1 To what extent do you possess this characteristic? (Kindness, Honesty, Intelligence, Sociability).
2 To what extent does someone with the same age and gender possess this characteristic? (Kindness, Honesty, Intelligence, Sociability)
The BTAE was computed by subtracting the score of the average person of the score the respondents gave themselves. This led to a positive outcome, which demonstrates the BTAE.
The BTAE of Kindness ranges from -5 to +6 (M= 1.38, SD= 2.03) The BTAE of Honesty ranges from -8 to +8 (M= 1.77, SD= 2.19)
The BTAE of Intelligence ranges from -5 to +7 (M= 1.56, SD= 1.98) The BTAE of Sociability ranges from -6 to +6 (M= 0.35, SD= 2.34)
The characteristics Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism and Intellect were measured through the 20-item Mini-IPIP scale of Donnellan et al., (2006).
Respondents were asked multiple questions with a 5-point scale, the items that were reverse coded, were recoded to fit the scale (1= very inaccurate; 5= very accurate): Example items are:
“I am the life of the party” and “I like order”. Then respondents were asked the same questions but about the average person. Example items are: “The average person is the life of the party”
and “The average person likes order”.
The BTAE was computed by subtracting the score of the average person of the score the respondents gave themselves. This led to a positive outcome, which demonstrates the BTAE. Or a negative outcome which demonstrates a worse than average effect.
The BTAE of Extraversion ranged from -3.50 to + 2.25 (M= 0.02, SD= 1.1).
The BTAE of Agreeableness ranged from -2 to +2.75 (M= 0.83, SD= 0.87).
The BTAE of Conscientiousness ranged from -2.75 to +3.25 (M= 0.47, SD= 1.00).
The BTAE of Neuroticism ranged from -2.75 to +2.25 (M=-0.15, SD= 0.91) The BTAE of Intellect ranged from -2.25 to + 3.00 (M=0.62, SD= 0.92)
The scale showed sufficient reliability for the items self-Extraversion as the α= 0.75 and average person-Extraversion as the α=0.71. Also, for the items self-Agreeableness as the α = 0.70 and average person-Agreeableness as the α=0.70.
The scale did not show sufficient reliability for the items self-Conscientiousness as the α = 0.67, and average person-Conscientiousness α= 0.49. Neither for self-Neuroticism as the α= 0.50, and the average person-Neuroticism α= 0.48. Or for self-Intellect as the α= 0.61 and the average person-Intellect α= 0.44. With none of the variables there would be a significant increase in the α if one item was deleted. To ensure valid results, these characteristics are not further investigated in relation to the BTAE and individualism.
Narcissism. Narcissism was measured through the 10-item Hypersensitive Narcissism Scale of Hendin & Cheek, (1997). All questions were recorded on a 5-point Likert scale (1=
strongly disagree; 5 = strongly agree. Example items are “I dislike sharing the credit of an achievement with others” and “I often interpret the remarks of others in a personal way”. The scale showed sufficient reliability as the α= 0.74. The scores ranged between 1.10 and 4.60 (M=
2.83, SD= 0.58)
Egocentrism. Egocentrism is a cognitive mechanism which can explain some of the
BTAE. Therefore, it is a valuable control variable. Egocentrism was measured through the 10- item scale of Tajmirriyahi et al., (2020). All questions were recorded on a 7-point Likert Scale (1= strongly disagree; 7= strongly agree. Example items are: “I am often told by people who know me well that I think the whole world revolves around me” and “I just take care of myself, my problems, and my needs and let other people take care of themselves”. The scale showed sufficient reliability as the α= 0.85. The scores ranged between 1 and 6.63 (M= 2.58, SD= 1.08)
Age. Age is a very valuable control variable in this research. Since research shows that
people nowadays tend to be more individualistic, resulting in more individualistic youngsters it is important to also take the age of the respondents into account (Huynh & Grossman, 2020).
To distinct if there is a trend with youngsters becoming more individualistic and therefore demonstrating a BTAE or if simply being individualistic increases the BTAE. The age of the respondents ranges from 16 to 65, with 60% of the respondents raging between 19 and 23 (M=
28.62, SD= 13.25).
Gender. Even though Zell (2020) established no significant difference between men and women with the BTAE, it is still a valuable control variable to investigate further. Men are more often narcissistic than woman and tend to be more arrogant and therefore, have better self-views
(Thomaes et al., 2009). Taking this into account, being a man could lead to an increased BTAE, therefore, it is an interesting control variable. From the 197 respondents, 70 are males and 127 are female.
First a one-sample T test will be run to test whether the average of the mean of the BTAE significantly differs from 0.
For Hypothesis 1, linear regression will be applied to the data to find out if there is a positive relationship between Individualism as the independent variable and the BTAE as the dependent variable.
To test Hypothesis 2, the PROCESS macro of Hayes (2020) Model 1 will be applied to the data to find out if there is a positive interaction effect between Individualism and Narcissism. With Individualism as the independent variable, Narcissism as the moderating variable, and the BTAE as the dependent variable.
The one-sample T test (see Appendix 1.1) shows whether there is a BTAE by testing if the BTAE mean of the characteristics is significantly different from 0. There is a significant BTAE on Honesty (t=11.31, p=0.00), Sociable (t=2.01, p=0.04), Kindness (t=9.51, p=0.00), Intelligence (t=11.01, p=0.00) and Agreeableness (t=13.34, p=0.00). The one-sample T test did not show a significant BTAE on Extraversion (t=0.27, p=0.79).
Table 1 contains the Means, standard deviations and correlations. This table shows multiple significant correlations between variables. Concerning hypothesis 1, there are multiple significant correlations; Individualism and BTAE Honesty (r=0.14, p=0.05), Individualism and BTAE Intelligence (r=0.20, p=<0.01) and Individualism and BTAE Extraversion (r=0.19, p<0.01).
Concerning hypothesis 2, there are also multiple significant correlations; Individualism and Narcissism (r=0.29, p= <0.01) and Narcissism and BTAE Kindness (r=0.14, p=0.05).
The control variables had multiple significant correlations too; Egocentrism and Individualism (r=0.42, p<0.01), Egocentrism and Narcissism (r=0.47, p<0.01), Egocentrism
p<0.01). and Egocentrism and Gender (r=-0.25, p<0.01). Gender and Individualism (r=-0.32, p<0.01), Gender and BTAE Sociable (r=-0.15, p=0.05), Gender and BTAE Kindness (r=0.15, p=0.05)), Gender and BTAE intelligence (r=-0.15, p=0.05), Gender and BTAE Agreeableness (r=0.28, p<0.01), Gender and Age (r=-0.20, p<0.01), Age and BTAE Sociable (r=0.15, p=0.05), and Age and Narcissism (r=-0.19, p<0.01).
Assumptions of linearity
In Advance, the assumption check was performed for the relationship between Individualism and the BTAE of the different traits (Honesty, Sociability, Kindness, Intelligence, Extraversion and Agreeableness). To test linearity in the data, scatter plots were performed (see Appendix 1.2), the data does not appear to be a perfect fit for linear regression.
Furthermore, normality was checked by examining a P-P plot (see Appendix 1.3). Because the data were collected via a cross-sectional survey with students independently approached participants, the assumption of the independence of residuals was met. The results showed that the residuals were approximately normally distributed, meaning the second assumption was met. Additionally, homoscedasticity was also evaluated by means of a scatter plot and the results suggest that the residuals were equally variable (see Appendix 1.4). To examine whether outliers were present, the standardized residuals were evaluated against a cut off value of two, 4 outliers were identified all were off small values (see Appendix 1.5). Because these outliers present a small part of the data, none of them were removed for the hypothesis testing. In conclusion, the results should be treated with caution because of the lack of linearity and the presence of outliers.
In table 2 (see appendix 1.4) the results of the linear regression for the BTAE have been presented. In these tables, the coefficients (ß) and the p-value of each variable in each model are displayed. In addition, this table shows the constant, the overall R², and the F-value
To test Hypothesis 1, whether individualism has a positive effect on the BTAE, linear regression was used with in step 1 Gender, Age, Egocentrism and in step 2 Individualism. The results are different depending on the measured trait.
For the BTAE on Honesty, the results show that Individualism does not have a statistically significant effect on the BTAE (ß= 0.25, p= 0.15), thus H1 is not supported. Model 1 has an R² of 0.04, where Model 2 has an R² of 0.05. This means that by adding individualism as a predictor variable, only 0.01% more of the variance in the BTAE can be explained.
For the BTAE on Sociable, the results show that individualism does not have a statistically significant effect on the BTAE (ß= 0.22, p= 0.24), thus H1 is not supported. Model
1 has an R² of 0.04, where Model 2 also has an R² of 0.04. This means that by adding individualism as a predictor variable, there is no difference in the explanation of the variance in the BTAE.
For the BTAE on Kindness, the results show that individualism does not have a statistically significant effect on the BTAE (ß= 0.18, p= 0.28), thus H1 is not supported. Model 1 has an R² of 0.02, where Model 2 has an R² of 0.03. This means that by adding individualism as a predictor variable, only 0.01% more of the variance in the BTAE can be explained.
For the BTAE on Intelligence, results show that individualism does not have a statistically significant effect on the BTAE (ß= 0.29, p= 0.06), thus H1 is not supported. Model 1 has an R² of 0.04, where Model 2 has an R² of 0.05. This means that by adding individualism as a predictor variable, only 0.01% more of the variance in the BTAE can be explained.
For the BTAE on Extraversion however, the results show that individualism does have a statistically significant effect on the BTAE (ß= 0.18, p= 0.03), thus H1 is supported. Model 1 has an R² of 0.01, where Model 2 has an R² of 0.04. This means that by adding individualism as a predictor variable, 0.03% more of the variance in the BTAE can be explained.
For the BTAE on Agreeableness, the results show that individualism does not have a statistically significant effect on the BTAE (ß= 0.03, p= 0.63), thus H1 is not supported. Model 1 has an R² of 0.11, where Model 2 also has an R² of 0.11. This means that by adding individualism as a predictor variable, there is no difference in the explanation of the variance in the BTAE.
For the BTAE on Honesty, the control variable egocentrism has a statistically significant effect on the BTAE (ß= 0.34, p= 0.02). For the BTAE on Agreeableness, the control variables gender (ß= 0.39, p= 0.00), and egocentrism (ß= -0.14, p= 0.02), had a statistically significant effect.
To test hypothesis 2, the positive interaction effect between Individualism and Narcissism on the BTAE, PROCESS macro (model 1) of Hayes (2020) was used. In table 3 (see appendix 1.5) the moderation models are presented. In these tables, the coefficients (ß), the p-value, the t-value, and the 95% confidence interval of each variable are displayed. In addition, this table shows the overall R², and the F-value.
The model for the BTAE Honesty has an F-value of 4.31 (p = 0.04); this implies that the moderation model has a good fit and that the predictor variables reliably predicts the BTAE of Honesty. The results show that there is a statistically significant positive interaction effect between Individualism and Narcissism on the BTAE, thus H2 is supported (ß = 0.53, se = 0.26, t = 2.08, p = 0.04, 95% CI = [-0.01;0.01]). The control variables have no statistically significant effect on the BTAE.
The model for the BTAE Sociability has an F-value of 4.31 (p = 0.04); this implies that the moderation model has a good fit and that the predictor variables reliably predicts the BTAE of Sociability. The results show that there is a statistically significant positive interaction effect between Individualism and Narcissism on the BTAE, thus H2 is supported (ß = 0.68, se = 0.27, t = 2.49, p = 0.01, 95% CI = [-0.01;0.01]). The control variables have no statistically significant effect on the BTAE.
The model for the BTAE Kindness has an F-value of 1.35 (p = 0.24); this implies that the moderation model is not a good fit and that the predictor variables does not reliably predicts the BTAE of Kindness. The results show that there is no statistically significant positive interaction effect between Individualism and Narcissism on the BTAE, thus H2 is not supported (ß = 0.30, se = 0.24, t = 1.24, p = 0.22, 95% CI = [-0.18;0.77]). The control variables have no statistically significant effect on the BTAE.
The model for the BTAE Intelligence has an F-value of 2.68 (p = 0.01); this implies that the moderation model has a good fit and that the predictor variables reliably predicts the BTAE of Intelligence. The results show that there is a statistically significant positive interaction effect between Individualism and Narcissism on the BTAE, thus H2 is supported (ß = 0.52, se = 0.23, t = 2.23, p = 0.03, 95% CI = [0.06;0.97]). The control variables have no statistically significant effect on the BTAE.
The model for the BTAE Extraversion has an F-value of 3.06 (p = 0.01); this implies that the moderation model has a good fit and that the predictor variables reliably predicts the BTAE of Extraversion. The results show that there is no statistically significant positive interaction effect between Individualism and Narcissism on the BTAE, thus H2 is not supported (ß = 0.13, se = 0.12, t = 1.03, p = 0.31, 95% CI = [-0.01;0.01]). The control variables have no statistically significant effect on the BTAE.
The model for the BTAE Agreeableness has an F-value of 4.59 (p = 0.01); this implies that the moderation model has a good fit and that the predictor variables reliably predicts the BTAE of Agreeableness. The results show that there is no statistically significant positive interaction effect between Individualism and Narcissism on the BTAE, thus H2 is not supported (ß = 0.03, se= 0.10, t = 0.28, p = 0.78, 95% CI = [-0.17;0.22]). The control variable Egocentrism (ß =-0.20, se = 0.07, t =-3.01 p = 0.00, 95% CI = [-0.34; -0.07]) has a statistically significant negative effect on the BTAE of Agreeableness.
This study examined the interacting role of narcissism and individualism on the BTAE of multiple traits (Honesty, Sociability, Kindness, Intelligence, Extraversion and Agreeableness). Particularly it was tested whether the relationship between individualism and the BTAE is dependent on the level of narcissism.
The first hypothesis was not supported for the characteristics Honesty, Sociable, Kindness, Intelligence and Agreeableness. Out of the results could not be concluded that individualism has a significant effect on the BTAE for these characteristics. The first hypothesis is supported for the characteristic Extraversion. Out of the results could be concluded that individualism has a significant positive effect on the BTAE for this characteristic.
The second hypothesis was not supported for the characteristics Kindness, Extraversion and Agreeableness. The results showed that there is not enough evidence to say that there is a positive interaction effect between Individualism and Narcissism on the BTAE for these characteristics. Hence, there was no proof that the BTAE of an individualistic person who is narcissistic would be higher than the BTAE of an individualistic person who is not narcissistic.
The second hypothesis was supported for the characteristics Honesty, Sociable, Intelligence.
The results showed that there is enough evidence to say that there is a positive interaction effect between Individualism and Narcissism on the BTAE for these characteristics. Hence, there was proof that the BTAE of an individualistic person who is narcissistic would be higher than the BTAE of an individualistic person who is not narcissistic.
This research investigated someone’s personal level of individualism instead of earlier research which looked at the culture of the country of residence from respondents (Zell, 2020).
The lack of significance of an effect between individualism and the BTAE is in line with previous research stating that self-enhancement and, therefore, the BTAE is a pancultural
phenomenon that is applicable to everyone, regardless of culture (Sedikides et al., 2003). It is interesting to see that individualists believe themselves to be more extravert than average since previous research proposes that individualists like to focus on themselves and not perse go out of their way to meet new people like extraverts do (Beck, 2012). The conclusion that individualists believe to be extraverts differs from previous research, which indicates that individualists tend to stay to themselves (Lukes, 2006). It could be that individualists are not extravert since they do not want to be extravert but believe that if they have or want to be extravert, they are very good at it. There could be a Dunning-Kruger (2011) effect since individualists would not experience many situations where they must be extraverts. Therefore, it is possible that they cannot correctly judge their behavior since they lack experience in them.
Moreover, this research looked into the moderation effect of Narcissism on Individualism. For the characteristics Honesty, Sociable and Intelligence a positive moderation effect of Narcissism was found. Regarding previous research it is no surprise that Narcissism will lead to an interaction effect for these variables. Previous research shows evidence for narcissists to believe they are very intelligent and likeable (Emmons, 1987). Individualists also often believe they are very intelligent (Beck, 2012), therefore it is in line with expectations that narcissism has a positive interaction effect with Individualism and heightens the BTAE for this characteristic.
It is noteworthy that, on the one hand, Narcissism did cause a positive interaction effect with Individualism on the characteristic Sociable. Narcissists live off other people’s attention, which lead them to surround themselves with others the majority of the time and be very social (Lasch, 2019). On the other hand, it is a bit contradictory that in this research narcissism did not cause a significant interaction effect for the characteristic Extraversion. Narcissists are often very outgoing and seek others since they need people to validate them, this makes them quite extravert (Lasch, 2019). It is interesting that there was a significant effect for the characteristic
Sociable, but not for Extraversion even though the two characteristics show many similarities and are both presumed important qualities for narcissists. This difference in significance could be the result of a not defined enough scale for the characteristics. In this research the mini-IPIP scales from Donnellan et al. (2006) was used to assess Extraversion. For Sociable there were only two questions where the respondents first ranked themselves and later ranked the average person. This is less reliable than the scale of Donnellan (2006) where multiple questions are asked to scale the characteristic, which leads to a better foundation for measurement.
For management, it is recommended based on these outcomes not to worry when solicitants or employees display signs of individualism. Individualism hardly plays a part with the BTAE, and therefore individualists will not be perceived as arrogant or unpleasant coworkers, regarding this concept. This lack of BTAE will also result in better leaders since people who do not overestimate themselves seem to be better at the decision-making process than those who do overestimate themselves and their abilities (Foster et al., 2018). However, when there is a mild BTAE, it can also result in a better work environment, since people who believe themselves to be better than average tend to be overall happier with themselves and perform better than those who do not (Campbell & Sedikides, 1999).
In contrast, when employees or solicitants show signs of narcissism, employers should worry. Narcissists are notoriously challenging to work with and tend to be unpleasant coworkers (Judge et al., 2006). Narcissists are already seen as arrogant and oblivious to others needs and desires (Freud, 2014). In relation to the BTAE, narcissism will highlight the negative effect of the BTAE on the work environment, which will result in an unpleasant workplace for their coworkers. Therefore, employers should try to filter narcissists from the applicants by providing a required personality test that measures this trait.
As previously mentioned, due to the chosen sample, the results of this study could be study-specific and not generalizable. Non-random sampling was used which limits the generalizability. Because of lack of time, it was not possible to use random sampling, this is something future research could implement in order to increase the generalizability of future research regarding Individualism, Narcissism and the BTAE.
As mentioned before, the questions to measure the BTAE of characteristics were limited. For Honesty, Sociability, Kindness, and Intelligence no scale was used. By using a scale to measure these characteristics it is illustrated better to what extent someone believes they possess the characteristic. This results in a more reliable picture of the overall personage and their perceived self-image. Extraversion and Agreeableness were measured on a scale;
however, this was a mini scale. These characteristics could also have been measured more thoroughly.
Lastly, there could be a social-desirability bias, there is a chance that respondents in the survey answered the questions in a manner that would be viewed favorably resulting in the overreporting of good behavior and underreporting of undesirably behavior. Therefore, not being honest about their traits, to prevent from coming off as cocky or arrogant. Especially the fact that participants were comparing themselves to others could have enhanced this bias. This is because, comparing themselves to others could have made participants more aware of their own behavior and what is socially desirable.
Recommendation for future research
From the control variables, egocentrism had a significant effect on the BTAE of Honesty and Agreeableness. Egocentrism has been linked to the BTAE before. This research contributes to the notion that egocentrism is a predictor of the BTAE. However, it is contradictory that egocentrists believe themselves to be agreeable since egocentrists tend to focus on themselves solely and are not prone to make compromises since they believe their view is the only correct and valuable view. Even the characteristics that are not perse linked to egocentrism can be influenced by this trait, as this research proved. Therefore, it would be interesting to research egocentrism further concerning the BTAE and see which specific characteristics are heightened by egocentrism.
Furthermore, it would be interesting to conduct qualitative research next to quantitative research to thoroughly examine the feeling people have regarding coworkers who display the BTAE. By looking into the possible effect, a perceived BTAE has on relationships in the workplace. This research could be done by distributing a questionnaire beforehand, which measures the BTAE of the participants—followed up by an experiment where people have to solve problems together in an office setting. In-depth questions about their teammates should follow up this experiment, and it should be investigated whether they perceived their teammates as pleasant, arrogant or neutral. Afterwards, researchers can compare the findings from the qualitative research with the outcomes of the questionnaire. As a result, researchers can conclude more on the relation between the BTAE and likeability.
The BTAE is a fascinating phenomenon on which many studies have been done.
Previous research on the effect of culture on the BTAE focused on the difference between collectivistic and individualistic cultures. However, there was no focus on the personal level of connection to this culture. It was measured by the dominant culture of the country of residence and not by the personal level of individualism or collectivism. Thus, the present study examined the effect of the personal level of individualism on the BTAE of the characteristics, Kindness, Honesty, Intelligence, Sociability, Extraversion and Agreeableness.
Results show that the personal level of individualism does not positively affect the BTAE for the characteristics, Kindness, Honesty, Intelligence and Agreeableness. Only, for the characteristic Extraversion, there was a significant positive effect of individualism. Therefore, this research contributes to the existing notion that the BTAE is robust, pancultural, and applicable to everyone, regardless of age, gender, and culture.
Furthermore, it was found that narcissism heightens the effect that individualism has on the BTAE for the characteristics, Sociability, Honesty and Intelligence. As a result, it can be concluded that narcissists indeed tend to overestimate their own abilities and have a higher BTAE.
In conclusion, culture does not seem to play a role in the BTAE, but personality traits such as narcissism and egocentrism do. However, further research is needed to conclude the precise effect of these characteristics on the BTAE and what the BTAE means for the social position of individuals.
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(1.1) One-sample T test
(1.2) Linearity Scatterplots
(1.4) Homoscedasticity Scatterplots
(1.4) Linear regression Table 4.
Linear regression results BTAE Honesty
Model 1 Model 2
Var B Sig B Sig
Gender 0.36 0.30 0.49 0.17
Age -0.01 0.28 -0.01 0.35
Egocentrism 0.34 0.02* 0.26 0.11
Individualism 0.25 0.15
Constant 0.68 0.46 -0.68 0.62
F-value 2.61 0.05* 2.49 0.04*
Overall R2 0.04 0.05
* p < 0.05 **p < 0.01
Linear regression results BTAE Sociable
Model 1 Model 2
Var B Sig B Sig
Gender -0.60 0.10 -0.49 0.20
Age 0.02 0.09 0.02 0.07
Egocentrism 2,45 1.00 -0.07 0.68
Individualism 0.22 0.24
Constant 0.70 0.48 -0.46 0.74
F-value 2.46 0.06 2.20 0.07
Overall R2 0.04 0.04
* p < 0.05 **p < 0.01
Linear regression results BTAE Kindness
Model 1 Model 2
Var B Sig B Sig
Gender 0.10 0.76 0.19 0.56
Age 0.01 0.47 0.01 0.56
Egocentrism 0.27 0.06 0.21 0.16
Individualism 0.18 0.28
Constant 0.28 0.75 -0.66 0.59
F-value 1.32 0.27 1.29 0.28
Overall R2 0.02 0.03
* p < 0.05 **p < 0.01
Linear regression results BTAE Intelligence
Model 1 Model 2
Var B Sig B Sig
Gender -0.59 0.06 -0.44 0.17
Age -0.01 0.44 -0.01 0.55
Egocentrism 0.16 0.23 0.07 0.64
Individualism 0.29 0.06
Constant 2.35 0.06 0.80 0.50
F-value 2.37 0.07 2.67 0.03*
Overall R2 0.04 0.05
* p < 0.05 **p < 0.01 Table 8.
Linear regression results BTAE Extraversion
Model 1 Model 2
Var B Sig B Sig
Gender -0.18 0.28 -0.09 0.61
Age -0.00 0.62 -0.00 0.77
Egocentrism 0.06 0.40 0.00 0.97
Individualism 0.18 0.03*
Constant 0.70 0.48 -0.46 0.74
F-value 0.92 0.44 1.85 0.12
Overall R2 0.01 0.04
* p < 0.05 **p < 0.01
Linear regression results BTAE Agreeableness
Model 1 Model 2
Var B Sig B Sig
Gender 0.39 0.00** 0.41 0.03*
Age -.01 0.16 -0.01 0.18
Egocentrism -0.14 0.02* -0.15 0.02*
Individualism 0.03 0.63
Constant 0.73 0.04* 0.57 0.26
F-value 7.93 0.00** 5.98 0.00**
Overall R2 0.11 0.11
* p < 0.05 **p < 0.01
(1.5) Moderation model Table 10.
Moderation Model predictors The BTAE Honesty
Var B se B t p
[-1.32, 2.47] 0.18 0.60 0.55
[-0.80, 0.43] 0.31 -0.59 0.56
[-0.04, 0.01] 0.01 -1.17 0.24
[-0.16, 1.25] 0.36 1.52 0.13
[-0.11, 0.58] 0.18 1.34 0.18
Individualism x Narcissism
[-0.01, 0,01] 0.26 2.08 0.04*
[-1.32, 2.47] 0.96 0.60 0.55
F-value 4.31 0.04*
Overall R2 0.07
* p < 0.05 **p < 0.01 Table 11.
Moderation Model predictors The BTAE Sociable
Var B se B t p
[-0.16, 0.59] 0.19 1.14 0.26
[-0.93, 0.37] 0.33 -0.84 0.40
[-0.01, 0.05] 0.01 1.53 0.13
[-1.15, 0.36] 0.38 -1.04 0.30
[-0.46, 0.28] 0.19 -0.48 0.63
Individualism x Narcissism
[-0.01, 0,01] 0.27 2.49 0.01**
[-1.47, 2.57] 1.03 0.53 0.59
F-value 4.31 0.04*
Overall R2 0.08
* p < 0.05 **p < 0.01
Moderation Model predictors The BTAE Kindness
Var B se B t p
[-1.22, 2.36] 0.17 0.81 0.42
[-0.19, 0.47] 0.29 1.02 0.31
[-0.01, 0.03] 0.01 0.84 0.40
[-0.54, 0.80] 0.33 0.39 0.70
[-0.22, 0.43] 0.17 0.63 0.53
Individualism x Narcissism
[-0.18, 0,77] 0.24 1.24 0.22
[-1.22, 2.36] 0.91 0.63 0.53
F-value 1.35 0.24
Overall R2 0.04
* p < 0.05 **p < 0.01 Table 13.
Moderation Model predictors The BTAE Intellect
Var B se B t p
[0.69, 4.10] 0.86 2.77 0.01**
[-0.04, 0.58] 0.28 0.02 0.98
[-0.03, 0.01] 0.01 -0.77 0.44
[-1.05, 0.22] 0.32 -1.30 0.20
[-1.01, 0.22] 0.16 0.02 0.99
Individualism x Narcissism
[0.06, 0,97] 0.23 2.23 0.03*
[-1.47, 2.57] 0.86 2.77 0.01**
F-value 2.68 0.02*
Overall R2 0.08
* p < 0.05 **p < 0.01