Neural correlates of self-enhancement in narcissism
Krusemark, Elizabeth Ann
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Studying the neural correlates of the self-serving bias is useful for understanding self-regulatory mechanisms associated with narcissism. Previous research demonstrates that non-self serving attributions are associated with enhanced neural activity in dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (Krusemark et al., 2008), suggesting that it requires greater controlled processing to make unbiased attributions. The present study compared event-related potentials (ERP) responses of 20 narcissists and 20 non-narcissists during a facial recognition task during which they made attributions about their performance and received false feedback on whether they were correct or incorrect. Results demonstrated that both positive and negative feedback elicited self serving attributions. Narcissism moderated the self-serving bias with higher narcissism resulting in more self-enhancing/self-serving attributions after positive feedback. Sensor and source analyses of ERP data on self-serving and non-self serving trials were evaluated for between-group differences. Significant differences were observed on self-serving trials subsequent to positive feedback, with lesser activity emanating from several brain regions, including bilateral occipital cortex, bilateral temporal cortex, left posterior parietal cortex, right dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, and bilateral ventromedial prefrontal cortex in those higher in narcissism. Individuals high in narcissism also exhibited preferential processing of task-related feedback in precuneus and left medial temporal cortex. Implications for self-enhancement and narcissism affecting controlled processing are discussed.