Narcissists love to win, but in most settings they aren’t that great at actually winning. For example, college students with inflated views of themselves (who think they are better than they actually are) make poorer grades the longer they are in college. They are also more likely to drop out. In another study, students who flunked an introductory psychology course had by far the highest narcissism scores, and those who made A’s had the lowest. Apparently the narcissists were wildly unrealistic about how they were doing and persisted in their lofty illusions when they should have dropped the course (or perhaps done something radical, like study).Students often cannot afford to drop a course: health insurance and student loans typically require full-time status. But not dropping because of “lofty illusions,” even when a passing grade is mathematically impossible, is indeed something new and strange. I see the profs in the audience nodding.
In other words, overconfidence backfires. This makes some sense; narcissists are lousy at taking criticism and learning from mistakes. They also like to blame everyone and everything except themselves for their shortcomings. Second, they lack motivation to improve because they believe they have already made it: when you were born on home plate, why run around the bases? Third, overconfidence itself can lead to poor performance. If you think you know all the answers, there’s no need to study. Then you take the test and fail. Oops.
Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement (New York: Free Press, 2009).
A related post
The Dunning-Kruger effect