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The 3 differences between narcissism and egocentrism

The 3 differences between narcissism and egocentrism

October 1, 2022

It is easy to confuse the concepts of narcissism and egocentrism . They are two ideas widely used in the world of psychology and are related to each other, since they have in common a refolding on one's own identity, thoughts and motivations.

However, they are used to refer to different things.

Differences between narcissists and egocentric

Next we will see which are the points in which egocentrism and narcissism differ and in which way these concepts can be used to describe a personality type.

What is narcissism?

Narcissism is a psychological trait that in contemporary psychology is used to know to what extent a person is more or less close to exhibiting a personality disorder known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder. That means that, although it can be said that someone shows a high level of narcissism in their behavior and way of thinking, the intensity of this feature does not have to become pathological .


And what is the Narcissistic Personality Disorder? Fundamentally, in a constant need to notice the admiration of others and lack of empathy. This makes narcissistic people have a feeling of grandiosity about their own abilities and positive qualities (something that can also be described as megalomania) and, ultimately, delusions of grandeur .

The narcissist assumes that he deserves special treatment, gets frustrated when he notices that he does not receive the attention he deserves, and underestimates the achievements of others by interpreting them as a matter of luck. This is what often causes narcissistic people to try to make others feel bad about themselves, since in this way their delusions of greatness will be confirmed by the way in which others exhibit low self-esteem.


Further, Narcissism appears basically through learning , especially that which has taken place during the first years of life. That implies that in many cases it can be corrected in a significant way.

What is egocentrism?

Self-centeredness, unlike narcissism, is not part of a diagnostic category. It is rather, a concept used to refer to a pattern in the way of thinking .

And what characterizes the egocentric way of thinking? Basically, the omission of points of view that are not your own.

While narcissists, like most of the human population, can easily know another person's point of view (although the narcissist gives little importance beyond the utility for oneself that has this information), there where there is self-centeredness the thoughts that evoke what the other person knows, believes or tries they appear less frequently or more superficially and imperfectly.


In other words, egocentricity is more defined by ignorance about what happens in the minds of others that by the contempt for the criterion of others.

Examples of self-centeredness

If we want to see in a clearer way what distinguishes narcissism and egocentrism, we can take as an example the way of thinking of children.

The little ones do not have to be narcissistic, but their thinking is self-centered because they find it hard to put themselves in the place of others and imagine what they know or think.

For example, a capacity known as Theory of the Mind, which consists of being able to make conjectures about the kind of thoughts and information available to another person , it does not appear well formed until approximately four years of age.

However, until that moment a child does not have to show narcissism, that is, it does not need to receive praise or notice how others are located at a lower hierarchical level. What will happen, among other things, is that will assume that everyone knows the information that you know . If a 3-year-old child sees someone arrive and hides a toy in a trunk, when another person arrives who was not present when the above occurred, he will assume that the newcomer also knows that the toy is hidden in the trunk.

The egocentric brain

Thus, self-centeredness does not have to do only with learned behaviors, but also with the degree of development of the brain. Younger people are self-centered because the neurons of your brain are not yet very interconnected with each other by areas of white matter, so that they find it difficult to think through relatively abstract ideas and, therefore, can not perform "simulations" about what happens in the brain of another.

Narcissistic people, on the other hand, have a mature brain and well-connected neurons, and in their case the characteristic is the way in which they prioritize their ideas and motivations.

How to distinguish between the narcissist and the egocentric

So, in summary, the differences between narcissism and self-centeredness are:

1. Self-centeredness occurs in virtually every child

Since our first months of life we ​​are egocentric, for the simple fact that we have not developed the ability to think in terms of "I" and "others". With age this capacity is improving, but it reaches its maximum development, since it evolves along with the ability to think in abstract terms.

2. Self-centeredness has a more or less clear biological basis

Self-centeredness is due to the somewhat reduced functionality of certain neuronal connections, which can be identified indirectly by observing the white matter that covers several areas of the brain. That does not mean that it is a developmental disorder or a disease; it may be due to learned behaviors fostered by an environment in which empathy or collaboration is not valued.

3. Narcissism has an instrumental component

Self-centered people do not have to think that others are worth less or that they have some kind of power over them, just spend little time thinking about them. That's why boys and girls show self-centeredness despite not having bad faith.

In narcissism, time is spent thinking about others, but with manipulative and instrumental zeal. The others are seen as a means to build a self-image defined by grandiosity.

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