Worth the Risk: Narcissism and Risky Health Behaviour


  • Melissa Nielsen MacEwan University


Grandiose narcissists (i.e., those who are self-focused, egotistical, and vain) are more likely to eat healthily and exercise due to their concerns with physical appearance (Hill, 2016). They also make riskier health decisions (e.g., binge drinking; Buelow & Brunell, 2014). We examine whether those high in narcissism would be more willing to risk their long-term health for short- term appearance enhancements. To do so, we measured participants (N = 289) narcissistic admiration (i.e., extraversion, charisma) and narcissistic rivalry (i.e., aggression, hostility). All participants viewed three advertisements for appearance-enhancing products (e.g., workout supplements) with the presence or absence of potential side effects. Ads depicted ideal male or female bodies and were matched to the self-reported sex of the participant. Participants indicated how willing they were to use these products to be admired by others, improve their health, be more competitive, and general self-improvement. Among those who viewed the male ads, those high (vs. low) in narcissistic admiration were more likely to endorse products to be more admired by others and improve their health when side effects were absent, but not when side effects were present. Participants who saw female ads did not show a significant difference in terms of health decisions regardless of the presence of side effects or levels of trait narcissism. Narcissistic rivalry did not impact decisions. Narcissism did not impact participants’ ability to assess potential risks, suggesting that side-effect visibility would aid in the health decisions of those attracted to these products.

Department: Psychology

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Miranda Giacomin