Date of Award

Summer 7-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Stephanie Smith

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Daniel Capron

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Randolph Arnau

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Michael Crowley

Committee Member 4 School



Adults with narcissistic traits are prone to reacting aggressively following provocation due to elevations in emotional reactivity and perceived threat to their grandiose self-views. Prior studies have examined event-related potentials (ERPs) measures in college students with narcissistic traits in the context of risky decision making and facial emotion processing; however, no known studies have examined how those with narcissistic traits react to rejection and provocation at the neurophysiological level during an externally valid social rejection task (i.e., Cyberball). For the purposes of this study, it was predicted that participants with higher levels of narcissistic traits (both total narcissism and grandiose exhibitionism) would have larger P3 mean amplitudes during exclusion trials relative to inclusion trials (signaling more attention to emotionally salient stimuli) and smaller N2 mean amplitudes during provocation trials relative to inclusion trials (suggesting less inhibitory control). It was also hypothesized that narcissistic traits would moderate the relationship between N2 mean amplitudes and retaliatory aggression, and that narcissistic traits would predict retaliatory aggression. Although we were able to replicate prior research supporting grandiose exhibitionism as a predictor of retaliatory aggression, our results did not support our other hypotheses regarding how adults with narcissistic traits process social exclusion and provocation at the neurophysiological level due to potential limitations of our experimental paradigm and our selection of ERP measures. It is important to obtain a better understanding of what occurs at the neurophysiological level in adults with narcissistic traits during social exclusion and provocation to help establish the groundwork for how such information is processed leading up to the end behavioral response (e.g., aggression), as further research in this area may allow us to identify or predict who may have these difficulties or assess how they respond to targeted intervention