Can That First Date Truly Reveal the Narcissist?
Venue Values and Cultural Omnivores
First dates are for first impressions. We size up potential paramours through everything from clothing to conversation, attitude to attire.
Desiring to avoid narcissists and other toxic personalities, we are attuned to red flags during the early stages of a relationship, when we are most objective, and less invested.
But beyond perceiving flamboyance, flash, and fashion, cultural preferences may provide additional clues to consider character.
So what does your date’s choice in dining, entertainment, or culture say about them — and their suitability, personality wise, for you? before you judge relationship potential by restaurant selection, consider the evolving character of the narcissistic personality.
Narcissists as Cultural Omnivores
Hanna Shin and Nara Youn, in a study, "How Insecure Narcissists Become Cultural Omnivores" (2020), examined how the personality traits of narcissism and psychological insecurity impact cultural consumption.
They note that traditional elites — people who possess a high amount of "cultural capital" by virtue of their social class or education, distinguish themselves through participating in high culture.
Frequently referred to as "snobs," Shin and Youn note such individuals showcase their superiority by participating in highbrow culture.
Yet this class has apparently evolved from sophisticated snobs into what prior research describes as "cultural omnivores," who not only enjoy highbrow culture, but also "lowbrow" culture.
Highbrow, Lowbrow Culture
Regarding definitions, Shin and Youn (ibid.) note that according to the Cambridge Dictionary, highbrow is defined as "involving serious and complicated or artistic ideas," and lowbrow as "not complicated or demanding much intelligence to be understood."
They note that the Oxford Dictionary of English contains slightly different definitions, defining highbrow as "intellectual or rarefied in taste" and lowbrow as “not highly intellectual or cultured."
Shin and Youn (supra) translate these definitions into practical terms, explaining that for example, highbrow art is consistent with the standards of the cultivated, upper-class, and lowbrow art, produced for or by lower status groups or "ordinary" people, is often more popular, and less sophisticated.
Shin and Youn explain that narcissistic individuals experiencing a decreased sense of psychological security seek distinction by consuming both highbrow and lowbrow culture. They use highbrow culture to reduce insecurity by satisfying status needs, and lowbrow culture to express self-integrity.
Observing Cultural Omnivores Mixing and Matching
Pizza and Perrier?
Definitely on the menu for a narcissistic cultural omnivore. These self-centered suitors may take dates to a venue or event that represents a mixture of mix high and lowbrow culture.
Although Shin and Youn recognize that cultural omnivores are often just as "well-heeled" as so-called cultural elites, they fail to make distinctions based on class, and are just as likely to enjoy products such as craft beer and hip-hop music, as traditional highbrow products such as fine wine and opera.
Shin and Youn (supra.) recognize other examples of cultural omnivorousness as including dance music incorporating flavors of classical or jazz, high-end dining with personalized versions of popular dishes such as wings and waffles, and art galleries that display graffiti alongside classical paintings.
How Venue Reflects Values
Assessing how venue selection reflect values (or lack thereof, if we are attempting to avoid becoming involved with narcissists or other toxic personalities), we apparently have to broaden our perspective. In their research, for example, Shin and Youn list highbrow cultural activities as "going to a classical symphony orchestra," "visiting art galleries," and "listening to contemporary classical music," and lowbrow cultural activities as "listening to pop music," "going to see graffiti and street art," "going to pop concerts," and "going to see street performances and busking."
The counterintuitive aspect of this research is that most people would not ordinarily associate grandiosity with graffiti, and street vending with vanity. It appears, therefore, that narcissism cannot be detected through venue selection — whether modest or pretentious.
Not to mention the fact that many of the kindest, most generous people in the world are no doubt just as likely to consume the same types of culture as the toxic personalities we try to avoid.
Accordingly, although first dates are the first step in forming first impressions, only relationship building over time will reveal the person behind the persona.
This article was originally published in Psychology Today.
Wendy L. Patrick, JD, MDiv, PhD, is an award-winning career trial attorney and media commentator. She is host of "Live with Dr. Wendy" on KCBQ, and a daily guest on other media outlets, delivering a lively mix of flash, substance, and style. Her over 4,500 media appearances include major news outlets including CNN, Fox News Channel, HLN, FOX Business Network, and weekly appearances on Newsmax. She is author of Red Flags (St. Martin´s Press), and co-author of the New York Times bestseller Reading People (Random House, revision). On a personal note, Dr. Patrick holds a purple belt in Shorin-Ryu karate, is a concert violinist with the La Jolla Symphony, and plays the electric violin professionally with a rock band. Read Dr. Wendy L. Patricks's Reports — More Here.
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