For The Narcissist In Your Life

New research suggests a way to get them to feel empathy:

Psychologists have long thought that narcissists were largely incorrigible—that there was nothing we could do to help them be more empathetic. But for a new study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, [Erica] Hepper discovered a way to measurably help narcissists feel the pain of others. …

Hepper and her co-authors asked a group of 95 female undergrads to take the same narcissism quiz, and then later to watch a 10-minute documentary about Susan, a victim of spousal abuse. Half were told to try to put themselves in Susan’s shoes (“Imagine how Susan feels. Try to take her perspective in the video…”), while the others were told to imagine they were watching the program on TV one evening. The subjects who were told to take Susan’s perspective were significantly more likely to score higher on empathy. In fact, the more narcissistic they were, the more the trick seemed to work.

“I think what’s going on here is that people who are low on narcissism are already responding to people—telling them what to do it isn’t going to increase their empathy any further,” Hepper said. “But the higher on narcissism you get, the less empathy [you feel]. By instructing them to think about it, it activates this empathic response that was previously much weaker.”