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A study found that atheists were more likely to be seen as narcissistic than religious believers - especially male atheists.[1] See also: Atheism and narcissism

Narcissism is excessive love of oneself. The word is based on the Greek myth of Narcissus, who resisted the advances of a nymph and was consequently made to fall in love with his own reflection. In psychology, extreme narcissism is a symptom of Narcissistic personality disorder, in which a person overestimates his own abilities and attractiveness, at the expense of concern for the needs and feelings of others. However, it has been argued that a moderate amount of narcissism is healthy.[2]

The subject of narcissism has been an extremely popular topic in psychology research. Many instruments have been created to measure the trait, the most popular of which are the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory and the Narcissistic Personality Inventory.[3] Factor analysis have revealed one overarching factor with many subtraits depending on resolution.

Study: General public believes atheists are more narcissistic

See also: Atheism and narcissism

The abstract for the 2017 journal article The perception of atheists as narcissistic which was originally published in the journal Psychology of Religion and Spirituality indicates:

"Research into prejudice toward atheists has generally focused on broad characteristics. Some of these characteristics (i.e., self-centeredness, elitism, individualism, and immorality) indicate a possible prejudice of narcissism.
"To investigate this specific prejudice, the present study used the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (Raskin & Terry, 1988), the Hypersensitive Narcissism Scale (Hendin & Cheek, 1997), and the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (Davis, 1983), which were adjusted so that the items of each measure were changed from first-person statements to third-person statements to measure participants’ perceptions.
"Participants (N = 359) were given a description of a fictitious individual named Alex, portrayed to them as either male or female and atheist or religious, or male or female with no additional information (creating 6 experimental groups), and then asked to complete the measures as they thought the individual would. Participants consistently rated atheists higher on narcissism measures and lower on empathy measures, indicating a perception of greater narcissism and a lack of empathy compared with religious individuals and controls.
"Participants’ perceptions of Alex were affected by his or her gender in conjunction with his or her religion, and the 2 variables of gender and religion interacted to create different patterns of perception. In general, interactions indicated differences in the way religion and gender impacted the perception of individuals as narcissistic, affecting perceptions of males more than females.
"The results are consistent with research findings that perceptions of atheists tend to be negative and prejudicial. This study highlights the need to compare perceptions with actual personality differences between atheists and religious individuals."[4]

However, this study suffers from ambiguity in the definition of its concepts. Joining the description "prejudicial" to the noun "perception" is a contradiction in terms. If a person is able to perceive something, common usage indicates that the perceived object exists. But if a notion is prejudicially formed, by definition that notion is too inadequate to be called a perception of its object due to the notion's lack of sufficient evidence.

So saying a prejudicial study or examination of an unknown object's or person's traits or characteristics instead results in the recognition of misperceptions by the author of the journal article, but actually saying so about a person's examination of facts personalizes the act of misperceiving to the point that it opens to the audited author of the thesis to charges of hypocrisy, because the manner of the author's own understanding of the alleged prejudices challenging the authenticity of the study or examination is not conveyed.

See also


  1. The perception of atheists as narcissistic, Dubendorff, S. J., & Luchner, A. F. (2017), Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 9(4), 368-376.
  2. Morrison, A. (1997). Shame: The Underside of Narcissism. New York: Analytic Press.
  3. "Narcissistic Personality Inventory"., accessed 9/6/2012.
  4. The perception of atheists as narcissistic, Dubendorff, S. J., & Luchner, A. F. (2017), Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 9(4), 368-376.