Narcissism and academic dishonesty


Academic dishonesty is any type of cheating that occurs in relation to a formal academic exercise. Examples are:

  • Plagiarism: The adoption or reproduction of original creations of another author (person, collective, organization, community or other type of author, including anonymous authors) without due acknowledgment.
  • Fabrication: The falsification of data, information, or citations in any formal academic exercise.
  • Deception: Providing false information to an instructor concerning a formal academic exercise—e.g., giving a false excuse for missing a deadline or falsely claiming to have submitted work.

Excellence in academics is highly valued in our societies. It delivers power, status, privileges and appreciation. It could also challenge narcissists because they are depended on power and status in order to maintain a positive self image. Narcissism has been used to describe both a clinical condition and a normal personality trait. Narcissism can lead to rationalized cheating. In worst cases there is deliberate cheating, with explicit intention.

A recent study examined the extent to which narcissism predicts self reported academic misconduct. From this research the results were not surprising. Exhibitionism and power were associated with academic dishonesty.

Narcissists have been described as exhibitionists because of their tendency to show off to gain admiration. It has been suggested that exhibitionism is narcissists’ mechanism for flaunting their superiority to others.

Moreover, the results of this study indicate that exhibitionists experience less guild for cheating. On the other hand students with higher self-esteem did not perform academic dishonesty. They also experience less pressure to cheat because they assume that others will not cheat. There were no gender differences with respect to admitting academic dishonesty, but men were less likely to experience guilt for academic dishonesty.

Narcissistic men higher in exhibitionism are more prone to academic misconduct, this is explained by their lack of guilt.

Thus the narcissists’ ambitions for their own academic achievement lead to cheating in school, facilitated by a lack of guilt for their immoral behavior.
Brunell, A., Staats, S., Barden, J., & Hupp, J. (2010). Narcissism and academic dishonesty: The exhibitionism dimension and the lack of guilt Personality and Individual Differences DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2010.10.006