The Aggrandizer Personality Type
I have posted another essay on the aggrandizer. Here is a reminder of the concept.
Dr. Brian Hayden proposed the concept of an aggrandizer as a personality type. I first learned this in reading his article “Pathways to power: Principles for creating socioeconomic inequalities” in Foundation of Social Inequality edited by T. D. Price and G. Feinman. I think this is an important concept for understanding our past, present and future.
My initial question was the origin of the aggrandizer personality type
Below is a first paragraph from one of his publications that he sent to me as a pdf via email.
“Big Man, Big Heart? The Political Role of Aggrandizers in Egalitarian and Transegalitarian Societies”
Anthropological theories of elites (leaders) in traditional societies tend to focus on how elites can be viewed as helping the community at large. The origin of elites is cast in functionalist or communitarian terms (viewing societies as adaptive systems). A minority opinion argues that elites were not established by communities for the community benefit, but emerged as a result of manipulative strategies used by ambitious, exploitative individuals (aggrandizers). While the communitarian perspective may
be appropriate for understanding simple hunter/gatherer communities, I argue that elites in complex hunter/gatherer communities and horticultural communities operate much more in accordance with aggrandizer principles, and that it is their pursuit of aggrandizer self-interests that really explains the initial emergence of elites. This occurs preferentially under conditions of resource abundance and involves a variety of strategies used to manipulate community opinions, values, surplus production, and surplus use.
From: For the Greater Good of All: Perspectives on Individualism, Society, and Leadership (Jepson Studies in Leadership) Edited by Forsyth, Donelson R. and Hoyt, Crystal L. 2010.
Dr. Hayden associates the behavior of the aggrandizer with the psychopath as studied and defined by Robert Hare. (see additional readings)
A mind opener and humorous to me because it exposes my myopia.
As a student of psychology, I am aware that all families have their issues. I have studied and followed anthropology for 50 years. That there were specific personalities such as the shaman or the berdache has always been clear to me. I simply had not incorporated into my awareness that our ancestor from the beginning of our species each had personalities (as do certainly most mammals) and to paraphrase Arno Gruen, “to be born human is to be born into a dangerous situation because no one knows what they are doing.” (from The Betrayal of the Self New York: Grove Press, 1988)
After learning about the aggrandizer concept, one of my questions and interests was what was the origin of the aggrandizer personality. Dr. Hayden and I have discussed via emails the Nature/Nurture question. He leans towards genetics. As a retired psychologist, I am in the middle.
For me the description of the aggrandizer brought to mind what I knew about narcissism. It is a subject I had explored years ago. Then searching our library system, I found this interesting book on narcissism and Machiavellianism.
Barry, C.T; Kerig, P.K.; Stellwagen, K.K.; and Barry, T.D. editors. 2011. Narcissism and Machiavellianism in Youth: Implications for the Development of Adaptive and Maladaptive Behavior. APA. Washington, DC.
Machiavellianism as a behavior pattern was not something with which I was familiar. So I looked at the descriptors for both narcissism and Machiavellianism. Then I searched for the etiology of these two personality types. It appears the behavioral descriptions of narcissism and Machiavellianism mirror those of the aggrandizer personality type.
Couple narcissistic traits with those associated with Machiavellian behavior.
“Machiavellians (Machs) do not inhabit the realm of emotion in the same way as others, yet they use it to manipulate others. They do not experience feelings, empathy, or morality in normative ways, yet they are consummate manipulators and deceivers precisely by playing upon these sentiments and convictions of others.” Pg. 213
McIlwain, Doris. 2011. “Young Machiavellians and the Traces of Shame: Coping with Vulnerability to a Toxic Affect”. In Barry, C.T; Kerig, P.K.; Stellwagen, K.K.; and Barry, T.D. editors. 2011. Narcissism and Machiavellianism in Youth: Implications for the Development of Adaptive and Maladaptive Behavior. APA. Washington, DC. Pg. 213-231.
“Linking the experience of dysfunctional parental rearing with manifest psychopathology: A theoretical framework.” Carlo Perris. Pg. 7. Perris, Carlo; Arrindell, W.A.; Eisemann, M. editors. 1994. Parenting and Psychopathology. Wiley. N.Y.
For me it appears there are parallels between narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathology. If these are traits that can be associated with the aggrandizer personality type, given the genetic component, what environmental/child rearing is associated with narcissism and Machiavellianism?
“The exact cause of narcissistic personality disorder is not known. However, many mental health professionals believe it results from extremes in child rearing. For example, the disorder might develop as the result of excessive pampering, or when a child’s parents have a need for their children to be talented or special in order to maintain their own self-esteem. On the other end of the spectrum, narcissistic personality disorder might develop as the result of neglect or abuse and trauma inflicted by parents or other authority figures during childhood.” From: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/neurological_institute/center-for-behavorial-health/disease-conditions/hic-narcissistic-personality-disorder
Another description mirrors the two extremes noted above:
“Consistent with Millon’s (1981) social learning theory, multiple studies have found a link between parental indulgence . . . and maladaptive forms of narcissism. . . . parental permissiveness, parental overvaluation . . . parental monitoring.
There is also substantial evidence supporting the object relations viewpoint that child narcissism comes from a parent’s selfish use of the child that is manifest in excessive or inconsistent parental control. . . . psychological control . . . authoritarianism . . . overdomination which combines monitoring and psychological control. Abstracted from pg. 133.
“Kohut argued that self-focused parenting is characterized as either neglectful or enmeshed and that either type of parenting can lead to narcissism.”
Kernberg argued that selfish parents place the child on a vicarious pedestal, as the family or parent’s hope for glory or success. As such, the parenting tends to be hyperdemanding with little displays of affection or support. . . . selfish parenting tethers parental displays of affection to child behavior that meets the parents’ standards of success. Abstracted from page 128.
Horton, Robert S. “On Environmental Sources of Child Narcissism: Are Parents Really to Blame?” Pg. 125-143. In Barry, C.T; Kerig, P.K.; Stellwagen, K.K.; and Barry, T.D. editors. 2011. Narcissism and Machiavellianism in Youth: Implications for the Development of Adaptive and Maladaptive Behavior. APA. Washington, DC.
One of these two extremes is associated with Machiavellianism.
Given the possible shame component, I looked at how shame is a critical part of our humanness. Shame can be looked at as a feeling of not belonging, of exclusion from the group. For a highly and imperatively social animal, our lifelong development of attachment/bonding is pivotal to belonging. We have a genetically based need to find structure, process and meaning within a social context that arises from both our evolutionary path and the very composition of our information processing. It is an interplay of biology, language, family, society, culture, and cosmology. It is a dynamic, ongoing, relational process within ourselves and with others.
It is important to understand the core of shame is not belonging. As a totally social animal, not belonging is a powerful motivator. As example, shame arises when we, as children, have no socially acceptable release for our natural frustration/anger. Or where our natural feelings of flight manifest as fear or terror are condemned. Shame is the feeling that arises when a behavior that is manifesting a naturally occurring internal state invokes the social response of disgust; of being cast out; of not belonging.
With the social response imprinted very early on our basic survival patterns, self- consciousness acts to maintain a sense of shame whenever the disallowed internal experience occurs. This is often below awareness because recognition of this aspect of our self is a threat to belonging; hence to survival.
Shame’s counterpart is guilt. Guilt arises from the disapproval of our behavior as opposed to rejection of our personhood. When guilt occurs, a way is taught for rectifying our error and for the acceptable expression (no matter how convoluted) of our experience within the social context. Guilt provides a process for continued membership in the group. In this way it provides continued support for the “traditional” patterns of socially accepted behavior.
Shame and guilt are decidedly different experiences. Guilt offers continued membership while shame banishes. The pathway to human belonging is channeled and powered by these two emotions of reference that arise through the functioning of self-consciousness. I believe these two emotions of reference are primary in the processes of personal and social change.
(The concept of emotions of reference comes from Lewis, Michael. 1992. Shame-The Exposed Self. The Free Press. N.Y.)
Childrearing styles may reinforce the genetics of the aggrandizer personality type. If so there are two possible parental behaviors. There is the coddle, “you are special” path that is really the child taking care of the parent’s needs. The child gets a message “don’t grow up, don’t individuate.” When the child attempts separation and nascent personhood, the parent withdraws connection creating a sense of abandonment. So the child, growing into adult, vacillates between the anger of enmeshment and the fear of abandonment.
The second parental behavior is the harsh, critical, authoritarian approach that narrowly defines the permissible behavior for being acceptable. This form is often found among fundamentalist (no matter the persuasion). It is mirrored in Alice Miller’s For Your Own Good (Farrar Straus Giroux. 1983.) about the childrearing experience of Adolf Hitler.
Both of these paths facilitate shame, a feeling of being outside, a sense of not being acceptable, perhaps a feeling of a group of one and hence a defense/offense for personal survival.
What Dr. Hayden has added to the equation of our social development is an understanding of people with a personality type that uses people, the society, and resources to enhance and empower themselves.
Narcissism, Machiavellianism and Psychopathology
There is some relationship between Machiavellianism, psychopathology and narcissism. They have been referred to as the “Dark Triad of personality”. Paulhus, D.L. & Williams, K.M. (2002). “The Dark Triad of Personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathology.” Journal of Research in Personality, 36, 556-563.
For psychopathology vs Machiavellianism, the psychopath derives pleasure from harming others, whereas this is not the motivation of Machiavellian. Pg. 197 “The New Scoundrel of the Schoolyard” by Kerig, Patricia and Sink, Holli in Barry, C.T; Kerig, P.K.; Stellwagen, K.K.; and Barry, T.D. editors. 2011. Narcissism and Machiavellianism in Youth: Implications for the Development of Adaptive and Maladaptive Behavior.
The psychopath lacks normal human emotional experience; the narcissist has a full range of emotions with high possibility of emotional displays. The Machiavellian may suppress emotions because of an inability to handle shame; while the psychopath feels no shame. Pg. 257 -258.
Kimonis, Eva, et al. “Conclusion: Current Themes, Futre Directions, and Clinical Implicatins Regarding Narcissism and Machiaverllianism in Youth.” In Barry, C.T; Kerig, P.K.; Stellwagen, K.K.; and Barry, T.D. editors. 2011. Narcissism and Machiavellianism in Youth: Implications for the Development of Adaptive and Maladaptive Behavior. APA. Washington, DC.
In exploring cross-cultural child rearing practices, I have not found any assessments of the childrearing experience of leaders of larger tribal groups. I would guess this has not been a ethnographic focus. In much of our early history, children were raised in a multiple caretaker setting. Hence, there would not be the more intense influence of an isolated mother/child dyad described in the etiologies. This leaves cross-cultural narcissistic and Machiavellian personalities and their historic significance an open question. There is one example of looking at a historic aggrandizing figure - Adolf Hitler and his harsh childhood experience - in For Your Own Good by Alice Miller.
I am continuing my research for evidence of childrearing being a component in the manifestation of narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathology.
The Aggrandizer Personality Type may arise genetically. In addition it may also be fostered by childrearing techniques. The two origins may reinforce each other. In simple hunter/gatherer groups the uniformity of culture and child rearing plus familiarity of behaviors inhibits the rise of the aggrandizer. As group populations increase and resources become more abundant, a diversity of identity and belonging opens the door for the aggrandizer to arise through genetics and as well as via childhood experience.
In a global population of seven billion, there are simply countless niches for the practice of accumulation of power via manipulation. The underlying nature/nurture formation of aggrandizers is hardly open to modification or constraint. The global economics and the global political interplays dictate consumption and consumerism to maintain the power of the elite. There is a goal to promote a world of mini-aggrandizers or mimickers.
We face the convergence of serious factors – climate change, population overshoot, energy, acidification of the oceans, species extinction, droughts, floods, massive storms, global environmental degradation, resource wars - each of these alone has societal challenging implications much less interlinked set. The aggrandizers from the peak of the power pyramid and lower if unconstrained become a deterrent to change in times of societal crisis.
The times we are facing right now.
Hayden’s Aggrandizer Bibliography
2012 Brian Hayden, Neil Canuel, and Jennifer Shanse
“What was brewing in the Natufian? An archaeological assessment of brewing technology in the Epipaleolithic.” Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory. DOI 10.1007/s10816-011-9127-y Posted 31 January 2012.
2011 Hayden, Brian and Suzanne Villeneuve
“A century of feasting studies.” Annual Review of Anthropology 40:433–449.
2011 Hayden, Brian
“Big man, big heart? The political role of aggrandizers in egalitarian and transegalitarian societies.” In D. Forsyth and C. Hoyt (Eds.) For the Greater Good of All: Perspectives on Individualism, Society, and Leadership. Palgrave Macmillan: New York. pp. 101–118.
2011 Hayden, Brian
“Feasting and social dynamics in the Epipaleolithic of the Fertile Crescent.” In G. Aranda, S. Monton-Subias, and M. Sanchez (Eds.). Oxbow Books: Oxford. pp. 30–63.
2010 Hayden, Brian
“El surgimiento de cazadores-recolectores complejos. Una visión desde el Northwest Plateau.” In A. Vila and J. Estévez (Eds.), La Excepción y la Norma. Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Treballs d’Ethnoarqueologia 8:87–110, 219–21.
2010 Hayden, Brian and Suzanne Villeneuve
“Who benefits from complexity? A view from Futuna.” In T. D. Price and G. Feinman (Eds.) Pathways to Power. Springer: New York. pp. 95–145.
2010 Hayden, Brian and Suzanne Villeneuve
“Astronomy in the Upper Paleolithic?” Cambridge Archaeological Journal 21:331–55.
2009 Hayden, Brian
"Funerals as Feasts: Why Are They So Important?" Cambridge Archaeological Journal 19:29-52.
2009 Hayden, Brian
"The Proof is in the Pudding: Feasting and the Origins of Domestication." Current Anthropology 50:597-601, 708-9.
2008 Hayden, Brian
L’Homme et l’Inégalité. CNRS Editions: Paris
2004 Hayden, Brian
“Sociopolitical Organization in the Natufian: A View from the Northwest.” In Christophe Delage (Ed.) The Last Hunter-Gatherer Societies in the Near East. BAR International Series: Oxford. Pp. 263–308.
2004 Hayden, B., and Ron Adams
“Ritual Structures in Transegalitarian Communities.” In William Prentiss and Ian Kuijt (Eds.) Complex Hunter-Gatherers: Evolution and Organization of Prehistoric Communities on the Plateau of Northwestern North America. University of Utah Press: Salt Lake City. Pp. 84–102.
2004 Hayden, B., and Sara Mossop Cousins
“The social dimensions of roasting pits in a winter village site.” In William Prentiss and Ian Kuijt (Eds.) Complex Hunter-Gatherers: Evolution and Organization of Prehistoric Communities on the Plateau of Northwestern North America. University of Utah Press: Salt Lake City. Pp. 140–154.
2003 Hayden, Brian
“Were luxury foods the first domesticates? Ethnoarchaeological perspectives from Southeast Asia.” World Archaeology 34:458–469.
2003 Hayden, Brian
“Hunting and feasting: Health and demographic consequences.” Before Farming 2002/3–4(3) www.waspjournals
2001 Hayden, Brian
“Richman, Poorman, Beggarman, Chief: The Dynamics of Social Inequality.” In G. Feinman, and T. Price (eds.), Archaeology at the Millenium: A sourcebook. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers: New York. Pp. 231–272.
2001 Dietler, Michael, and Brian Hayden
“Digesting the Feast – Good to Eat, Good the Drink, Good to Think: An Introduction.” In M. Dietler and B. Hayden (eds.), Feasts: Archaeological and Ethnographic Perspectives on Food, Politics, and Power. Smithsonian Institution Press: Washington, DC. Pp. 1–20.
2001 Hayden, Brian
“Fabulous feasts: A prolegomenon to the importance of feasting.” In M. Dietler and B. Hayden (eds.), Feasts: Archaeological and Ethnographic Perspectives on Food, Politics, and Power. Smithsonian Institution Press: Washington, DC. Pp. 23–64.
2001 Dietler, Michael and Brian Hayden (eds.)
Feasts: Archaeological and Ethnographic Perspectives on Food, Politics, and Power. Smithsonian Institution Press: Washington, DC.
(Ed.) The ancient past of Keatley Creek. Volume II: Socioeconomy. Archaeology Press: Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC.
1997 Owens, D’Ann, and Brian Hayden
“Prehistoric rites of passage: A comparative study of transegalitarian hunter-gatherers.” Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 16: 121–161.
“Feasting in prehistoric and traditional societies.” In Polly Wiessner and W. Schiefenhovel (editors), Food and the status quest. Berghahn Books: Providence. Pp. 127–147.
“The emergence of prestige technologies and pottery.” In William Barnett, and John Hoopes (editors), The emergence of pottery. Smithsonian Institution Press: Washington, D. C. Pp. 257–266.
“Pathways to power: Principles for creating socioeconomic inequalities.” In T. D. Price and G. Feinman, Foundation of Social Inequality. Plenum: New York. Pp. 15–85.
“Competition, labor, and complex hunter-gatherers.” In Ernest Burch, Jr. and Linda Ellanna (editors), Key issues in hunter-gatherer research. Berg Publications: Oxford. Pp. 223–239.
Garrison, W. and Earls, F. 1987. Temperament and Child Psychopathology. SAGE Pub. London.
Gilbert, Paul and Andrews, B. 1998. Shame: Interperson Behavior, Psycholpathology, and Culture. Oxford U. Press. Oxford.
Hare, Robert. 1999. Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us. Guilford Press.
Hare, Robert and Babiak, Paul. 2006. Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work. Harper-Business.
Massie, H. 1982. "Affective Development and the Organization of Mother-Infant Behavior from the Perspective of Psychopathology." In Social Interchange in Infancy: Affect, Cognition, and Communication, Edited by Tronick, E. Z. University Park Press. Baltimore.
Lowen. 1985. Narcissism: Denial of the True Self.
Lasch, C. 1978. The Culture of Narcissism. Norton. N.Y.
Lewis, H.B. 1987. The Role of Shame in Symptom Formation. Eribaum Ass. Hillsdale, N.J.
Lewis, H.B. 1971. Shame and Guilt in Neurosis. International University Press. N.Y.
Lewis, Michael. 1992. Shame-The Exposed Self. The Free Press. N.Y.
Lynd, Helen Merrell. 1965. On Shame and the Search for Identity. Science Editions. N.Y.
Miller, Alice. 1983. For Your Own Good. Farrar Straus Giroux.
Peristiany, J. G. 1966. Honour and Shame. University of Chicago Press. Chicago.
Perris, Carlo; Arrindell, W.A.; Eisemann, M. editors. 1994. Parenting and Psychopathology. Wiley. N.Y.
Scheff, T. and Retzinger, S. 1991. Emotions and Violence: Shame and Rage in Destructive Conflicts. Lexington Books. Massachusetts>
Schieffelin, C. 1985. "Anger, Grief, and Shame: Toward a Kaluli Ethnopsychology." In Person, Self, and Experience. Edited by G. M. White and J. Kirkpatrick. Univ. of California Press. Berkeley.
Schneider, Carl. 1977. Shame, Exposure, Privacy. Beacon. Boston.
Sroufe, L. Alan. 1995. Emotional development: the organization of emotional life in the early years. Cambridge U. N.Y. Page 68 for 18 month old shame.
Tangney, June and Fischer, Kurt; editors. 1995. Self-Conscious Emotions: The Psychology of Shame, Guilt, Embarrassment, and Pride. Guilford. N.Y.
“Life as a Nonviolent Psychopath”
Neuroscientist James Fallon discovered through his work that he has the brain of a psychopath, and subsequently learned a lot about the role of genes in personality and how his brain affects his life.
The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success. Scientific American: New York, 2012, 261 pp., US$26.00, ISBN #978-0-374-29135-8.
Kristofer Thompson, Department of Psychology, University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, OK.
Robert D. Mather, Department of Psychology, University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, OK.
“Marianne Williamson and the Elephant in the Living Room”
By Bernhard Guenther
There is one topic that stands like the proverbial elephant in our collective living room, still unacknowledged, ignored or misunderstood by many people. It is the
underlying issue for our society and world’s problems. This is the topic of Psychopathy, especially Psychopaths in places of power and how it affects our world and society at large. More and more research and studies have been published that prove the existence of this intra-species predator, yet it still is being avoided and not sincerely studied and looked at by many well-meaning people who work actively trying to make this world a better place. They focus on the symptoms, but not the