The Differences Between Narcissism and Egocentrism

Who's more problematic? The narcissist or the egocentric? Although they may appear similar, they're not the same. In fact, there are certain nuances that differentiate between the two. They're useful to know. We take a look at them.
The Differences Between Narcissism and Egocentrism
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Narcissistic, selfish, self-centered… We often confuse these terms or use them arbitrarily, thinking that we’re talking about the same thing. However, there are clear differences between narcissism and egocentrism. As a matter of fact, narcissism can manifest itself as a personality disorder.

Few terms are used so widely in our everyday language. We usually label people as egocentric when they prioritize their needs and desires before others. On the other hand, we label people who see and interpret things only from their own perspective without considering those of others as narcissistic.

This arbitrariness we exhibit in the terminology we use actually dilutes the original meaning of these terms hence we often incorrectly apply them. Therefore, discovering the thin line that separates both of these psychological universes will be as curious as it’s enriching. Let’s take a look.

Woman looking in the mirror symbolizing the differences between narcissism and egocentrism

The differences between narcissism and egocentrism

Before exploring the differences between narcissism and egocentrism, we should reflect on one aspect. We all inhabit our own internal universes from which we perceive and interpret the world. Furthermore, all of us, in some way or another, are integrated into the egocentric perception that goes from the inside to the outside. In other words, from our minds to the world that surrounds us.

Some people take this to the extreme. For example, those who rarely come out of their shell to connect with others, and refuse to learn from other approaches or share common ideas. Indeed, there are degrees of both narcissism and egocentrism. They fall within a spectrum that ranges from the acceptable to the pathological. Let’s take a look at what defines each psychological reality.

Narcissism: A personality style that can be a disorder

Personality style, or upbringing and education problems? This is often the first question experts ask themselves when delving into narcissism. In many cases, the behavior has its origins in poor education. One in which a lack of boundaries ends up molding an emotional and psychological exploiter. Let’s take a look at the characteristics that define narcissists.

  • Narcissism can manifest itself as a personality disorder. However, as we mentioned earlier, this behavior can be evidenced in a more reduced way or, conversely,  fall into a clinical category. That of narcissistic personality disorder.
  • As a rule, the narcissist demonstrates a remarkable need to hog all the attention. In fact, they border on megalomania and experience delusions of grandeur. Nevertheless, there’s one trait that differentiates them from the egocentric. It’s the fact that narcissists need to have people around them to reinforce their feelings of greatness. They use others to be someone. On the other hand, the egocentrical don’t.
  • Narcissists don’t connect with or care about the feelings of others. Indeed, one of their most striking characteristics is their lack of empathy.
  • One of the most common differences between narcissists and egocentrics is that the former will always exhibit clear feelings of superiority. However, the egocentric neither seeks nor needs it.
  • Narcissists build their own values and their own moral sense. They set their own rules, which lead them to commit unethical acts. As a matter of fact, Dr. Victoria Blinkorn, from the University of Liverpool, conducted a study that demonstrated there’s a significant relationship between narcissism and criminal behavior.

The egocentric, a cognitive bias

One of the differences between narcissism and egocentrism is that, while the former defines a personality style, the latter manifests itself in the form of cognitive bias. In addition, egocentrism isn’t recognized as a diagnosable clinical disorder. It’s a way of thinking, of interpreting reality.

You may still be thinking that the difference between these two dimensions is remarkably narrow. However, when you read about it below, you’ll realize there are distinct differences.

  • Swiss psychologist, Jean Piaget defined egocentrism as a way of thinking that defines children under the age of eight. This kind of thinking means that they only interpret and see the world from their own perspective. Gradually, as they reach maturity, they learn to accept other people’s points of view.
  • Nevertheless, some people continue to manifest this style of thinking when they reach adulthood. They tend to be considered immature with an inability to connect with the perspectives of others. In fact, they only focus on their own opinions and thoughts.
  • With egocentrism, another type of bias usually appears. This is similarity. It makes these people believe that others think like them.
  • Egocentrism is basically a cult of the self, but without any delusions of grandeur, or the need to hog the spotlight. Furthermore, these people don’t exhibit a lack of morals or a tendency to criminal behavior like narcissists.
Man pointing to himself

How do you know if you’re facing a narcissist or an egocentric?

As we’ve mentioned already, t here are differences between narcissism and egocentrism. However, some people can be confusing. Therefore, how do you know if you’re facing a narcissist or someone who’s incapable of seeing other perspectives than their own?

  • The narcissist is manipulative and always looking for something in return. The egocentric only aspires to be right, to impose their own point of view.
  • Narcissism uses the emotions of others to exert control. To do this, they might be friendly and charming at first but gradually, you see how their personality and intentions change.
  • The egocentric person’s behavior is less sophisticated. They can seem pretty immature and even childish. In addition, they don’t manipulate and they show themselves in the same way right from the beginning. In effect, what you see is what you get. They’re people who only take into account their own perspective, opinions, and needs.

Both of these kinds of behavior can be problematic though it’s the narcissist who always acts in a more damaging way. It’s well worth bearing in mind.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Blinkhorn, Victoria & Lyons, Minna & Almond, Louise. (2018). Criminal Minds: Narcissism Predicts Offending Behavior in a Non-Forensic Sample. Deviant Behavior. 1-7. 10.1080/01639625.2017.1422458.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.