Narcissism and the use of personal pronouns revisited

Angela L. Carey, Melanie S. Brucks, Albrecht C.P. Küfner, Nicholas S. Holtzman, Fenne Große Deters, Mitja D. Back, M. Brent Donnellan, James W. Pennebaker, Matthias R. Mehl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Among both laypersons and researchers, extensive use of first-person singular pronouns (i.e., I-talk) is considered a face-valid linguistic marker of narcissism. However, the assumed relation between narcissism and I-talk has yet to be subjected to a strong empirical test. Accordingly, we conducted a large-scale (N = 4,811), multisite (5 labs), multimeasure (5 narcissism measures) and dual-language (English and German) investigation to quantify how strongly narcissism is related to using more first-person singular pronouns across different theoretically relevant communication contexts (identity-related, personal, impersonal, private, public, and stream-of-consciousness tasks). Overall (r =.01, 95% CI [-.02,.04]) and within the sampled contexts, narcissism was unrelated to use of first-person singular pronouns (total, subjective, objective, and possessive). This consistent near-zero effect has important implications for making inferences about narcissism from pronoun use and prompts questions about why I-talk tends to be strongly perceived as an indicator of narcissism in the absence of an underlying actual association between the 2 variables.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e1-e15
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015


  • LIWC
  • Language
  • Narcissism
  • Personality
  • Replication
  • Text analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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