Narcissism in Science

For some reason, I guess narcissism was on people’s minds last Friday. Hannah Devlin had a story in the Guardian about a lecture given by immunologist Bruno Lemaitre about the crisis of narcissism in science.

“Many great scientists are narcissists. It’s a bit sad, but it’s a fact,” he said. “This might surprise an external observer, because scientists are usually perceived as being modest searchers for the truth and working collectively for the advancement of science.”

Lemaitre is not suggesting his profession is unique in having experienced a rise in individualism – politics, film or fashion are probably worse and the trend is global, he says, but it has some worrying implications that are specific to science.

“The influence of narcissism on so many aspects of science calls into question [its] very objectivity,” he said.

The replication crisis in psychology and the life sciences, in which “sexy” papers fail to stand up to closer scrutiny, can be blamed in part on scientists being motivated by a need for attention and authority as well as curiosity about the natural world, he said.

This sounds right to me.

2 thoughts on “Narcissism in Science

  1. Yeah, I think narcissism plays a role in academia.

    But, it should be made clear what is meant by narcissism.

    An example of how this article is confusing is that it conflates narcissism and individualism.

  2. Also, depending on one’s definition and beliefs regarding narcissism, one might not think all narcissism is bad. The prospect of ‘healthy narcissism’ understandably doesn’t get brought up much in discussions of narcissism, most of which are talking about unhealthy narcissism by default.

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