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Mysteries of the Mind

Leigh Beeson

Researchers in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences explore why humans do what we do—and how we can change.

psy•chol•o•gy  (noun)

The scientific study of the human mind and behavior

The Greatest Disorder Ever

Keith Campbell | Professor of Psychology

One of the most popular majors at the University of Georgia, psychology offers students a broad, science-based education that can be useful in various fields.

And it’s just really cool.

From learning about personality disorders like narcissism to how people set and achieve goals to how we form meaningful connections with others, UGA psychology researchers are conducting work that isn’t just fascinating. It’s useful.

The textbook definition of a narcissist is someone obsessed with themselves.

They’re not just GREAT. They’re the best [fill-in-the-blank] that ever existed. Everything they do is ART.

But decades ago, people barely knew the word narcissist, let alone what traits make one, says Keith Campbell, a narcissism expert and a professor in UGA’s behavioral and brain sciences program.

Now, narcissism is probably one of the most talked-about personality disorders.

Most of the time, when people talk about how narcissistic someone is, they’re thinking of what is actually a normal personality trait.

Just about everyone has some narcissistic tendencies, and that’s not a bad thing, Campbell says. Confidence can help you get the job or lead your team to victory, after all.

But when it reaches a point of clinical significance, narcissism takes on a different meaning.

People with grandiose narcissistic personality disorder have such an inflated sense of self-worth that it makes them incapable of forming healthy relationships. They lack empathy. They need constant praise. And they can lash out when criticized.

“You could be really good at becoming a leader because of your narcissism, but you may be too self-centered and a little corrupt,” Campbell explains. “And that might destroy or kind of impede your ability to be a leader over time. Or you could be really good at starting relationships, but to transition from a dating relationship to a more emotionally committed marriage, you’re not going to be so good at that.”

So can you “fix” a narcissist? Maybe.

Like those with antagonistic personality disorder, the verdict is out on how many narcissists actually WANT to change.

They are perfect specimens, after all.


Michelle vanDellen | Associate Professor of Social Psychology

As the New Year rolls around, Michelle vanDellen will be waiting for it—the whole “New Year, New Me” phenomenon when people decide they’ll actually make a change. They’ll eat organic foods, exercise more, and do so regularly.

And one by one, those proclamations will crumple like so many discarded $1.99 party hats.

As a researcher who specializes in goals and how people’s thoughts and motivations influence those goals, vanDellen finds it interesting that people focus on these signposts of a supposedly healthy lifestyle.

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