Do you remember that old flame who was so incredibly self-centered? Everything was always “me, me, me,” but never really about you, wasn’t it? Well, that person was probably a narcissist. Dr. Amy Brunell, Assistant Professor of Psychology, could tell you more—that’s her research specialty.
“I would define someone who is narcissistic as someone having inflated self-views and self-esteem; very selfish and self-centered. A big part of the definition of narcissism is that they really don’t have empathy for other people, so they tend to not be very moral,” she says.Interestingly enough, it was the “research bug” that pulled Dr. Brunell into the field of social psychology; she had initially planned to be a clinical psychologist. She began her graduate studies studying dating couples, intimacy, and relationship satisfaction, and then continued her career with a focus on narcissism. “Once you start learning about it, you just see it in everything and want to ask research questions about narcissism,” she admits. “So, it was never my intention to be a narcissism researcher, but here I am!”
Currently, Dr. Brunell’s research is focused on blending both of these interests. Right now she is looking at “mate poaching,” or stealing romantic partners, as well as how people advertise themselves on dating websites. She is also looking more into the cognitive abilities of narcissists, or studying the way that they think.
Mentoring students through research is one of Dr. Brunell’s favorite parts of the job. Students who have taken introductory psychology have the option to become a research assistant in her lab. She recommends this option as a good way to “get your feet wet” and allow an easier transition into an independent study. If you have felt the nibble of the research bug, don’t hesitate to send her an email to discuss your ideas!