I signed the Hope Accord.

Adaptive value of narcissism

I’ve been wondering recently if the epidemic of narcissism we seem to be in is some kind of misfiring of an evolutionarily adaptive mechanism.

One formulation I’ve been playing with is that it might be the internal side of a two-part “feature flag” system that evolution came up with to help small bands of hunter-gatherers coalesce around a single chief figure:

  • Narcissism is the flag that tells you you’re supposed to be the chief.

  • Charisma is the flag that tells other people you’re supposed to be the chief.

Obviously, taking either side of that out of a hunter-gatherer context and into modern society will result in problems.

Apparently, having daydreams about saving all of your friends or loved ones from a disaster of some kind is a narcissistic trait. This seems to fit with the idea of a chief character who gets satisfaction from the idea of guiding and protecting their band, possibly at the expense of their own safety.

A common response when Navy SEAL/commando types on YouTube are asked about their personalities is that they’re just natural protectors; it’s all they’ve wanted to do since childhood. They often seem to be naturally charismatic/alpha types as well, so maybe there’s a connection there.