Provoked Narcissistic Aggression: Examining the Role of De-Escalated and Escalated Provocations [2018]

Theories have postulated why provocation is particularly likely to incite aggression for narcissists, but key propositions from such theories dealing with psychological process or boundary conditions have seldom been tested. Here, we investigated narcissists’ cognitive, emotional, and motivational experience and aggression following escalated and de-escalated provocation. Participants (N = 680) completed measures of grandiose narcissism (normal and pathological expressions) and vulnerable narcissism. Next, participants simulated provocation via imagining everyday scenarios in which a provocateur either de-escalates (apologizes and expresses concern) or escalates (makes a spiteful remark) the provocation and then rated anger and humiliation, perceived “narcissistic injury,” goals, and aggression. Expressions of grandiose narcissism, but vulnerable narcissism, more strongly related to aggression following escalated (vs. de-escalated) provocation. Path modeling revealed that perceived narcissistic injury and narcissistic-identity goals explained this relation for pathological grandiose narcissists, and revenge goals and narcissistic-identity goals explained this relation for normal grandiose narcissists. Conversely, vulnerable narcissism related more strongly to anger, perceived narcissistic injury, and narcissistic-identity goals following de-escalated (vs. escalated) provocation. Path modeling revealed that vulnerable narcissists’ enhanced anger-induced aggression is bounded to de-escalated provocation. We discuss the findings in relation to various theories of provoked narcissistic aggression.

William Hart, Gregory K. Tortoriello, Kyle Richardson

Journal of Interpersonal Violence, August 11, 2018