Summary: According to researchers, those who consider themselves to have a sense of entitlement are often more prone to frustration and unhappiness.
Source: Case Western Reserve.
Entitlement–a personality trait driven by exaggerated feelings of deservingness and superiority–may lead to chronic disappointment, unmet expectations and a habitual, self-reinforcing cycle of behavior with dire psychological and social costs, according to new research by Case Western Reserve University.
In a new theoretical model, researchers have mapped how entitled personality traits may lead to a perpetual loop of distress, in a literature review published in the Psychological Bulletin.
“At extreme levels, entitlement is a toxic narcissistic trait, repeatedly exposing people to the risk of feeling frustrated, unhappy and disappointed with life,” said Joshua Grubbs, the primary author of the paper and a recent PhD graduate in psychology from Case Western Reserve.
“Often times, life, health, aging and the social world don’t treat us as well as we’d like. Confronting these limitations is especially threatening to an entitled person because it violates their worldview of self-superiority,” said Grubbs, now a clinical psychology professor at Bowling Green State University.
Reacting to perceived injustices, entitled people may direct their anger outward, blaming others, while reassuring themselves of their own specialness–thus beginning the cycle again.
The study–based on a review of more than 170 academic papers–outlines the cycle as a three-stage process:
- First, entitlement creates a constant vulnerability to unmet expectations.
- Unmet expectations then lead to dissatisfaction and other volatile emotions.
- Emotional distress demands a remedy, leading to the reinforcement of superiority.
“Reassurance stemming from entitlement can provide temporary relief from the very distress caused by entitlement,” said Julie Exline, co-author of the study and a professor of psychological sciences at Case Western Reserve.
But these benefits are short-lived; long-term consequences associated with entitled behavior include poor relationships, interpersonal conflicts and depression.
“The entire mindset pits someone against other people,” Exline said. “When people think that they should have everything they want–often for nothing–it comes at the cost of relationships with others and, ultimately, their own happiness.”
Previous studies show entitlement is on the rise–so-called “millennials” see themselves as generally more entitled than previous generations; entitled traits have an especially fertile breeding ground in the strong current of individualism valued by American society and culture, Exline says, though pinning blame for the phenomenon is difficult.
And while there is no clear path for a person to break out of the cycle of entitled behavior, previous research shows that traits of humility and gratitude can protect against the distress associated with entitlement.
By creating a sense of safety and security, psychologists have helped entitled people feel more connected to others by finding common ground in the limitations and suffering present in all human lives.
“Yet, this may be too much to ask,” Grubbs said. “It’s often unacceptable for entitled people to consider they are not the exception to the rule.”
Source: Daniel Robison – Case Western Reserve
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Original Research: Abstract for “Trait Entitlement: A Cognitive-Personality Source of Vulnerability to Psychological Distress” by Grubbs, Joshua B. and Exline, Julie J. in Psychological Bulletin. Published online August 8 2016 doi:10.1037/bul0000063
Trait Entitlement: A Cognitive-Personality Source of Vulnerability to Psychological Distress
Psychological entitlement is a personality trait characterized by pervasive feelings of deservingness, specialness, and exaggerated expectations. The present review expands upon this understanding by conceptualizing entitlement as a cognitive-personality vulnerability to psychological distress. A review of research is conducted, and a novel, multipart model is described by which entitlement may be seen as such a vulnerability. First, exaggerated expectations, notions of the self as special, and inflated deservingness associated with trait entitlement present the individual with a continual vulnerability to unmet expectations. Second, entitled individuals are likely to interpret these unmet expectations in ways that foster disappointment, ego threat, and a sense of perceived injustice, all of which may lead to psychological distress indicators such as dissatisfaction across multiple life domains, anger, and generally volatile emotional responses. Furthermore, in the wake of disappointment, ego threat, or perceived injustice, entitled individuals are likely to attempt to bolster their entitled self-concept, leading to a reinforcement of entitled beliefs, thereby initiating the cycle again. At each stage of this process, entitlement presents the individual with the possibility of experiencing distress, predisposes further risk factors for distress (e.g., the subsequent steps in the model), and increases the risk of interpersonal conflict, again leading to distress. A review of relevant empirical data suggests preliminary support for this conceptual model of entitlement.
“Trait Entitlement: A Cognitive-Personality Source of Vulnerability to Psychological Distress” by Grubbs, Joshua B. and Exline, Julie J. in Psychological Bulletin. Published online August 8 2016 doi:10.1037/bul0000063