Research in the Morf lab investigates how people try to construct and maintain their desired self-concepts and how these efforts come to reflect their personalities. Thus, personality is examined as a function of how individuals routinely select and interpret situations, and how they respond to these (trigger) situations. The mechanisms that unfold in this process can be both automatic and more effortful, and they take place either within the person (motivational, affective, cognitive) or in interpersonal interactions.
To date, we have studied these processes primarily as they operate in individuals high in narcissism (defined here as a normal, non-pathological personality disposition). Because narcissists are overdependent on external sources for self-affirmation, their self-construction processes tend to be exaggerated and can thus more easily be observed. Our research also examines the consequences of these self-regulatory attempts. That is, how and under which circumstances are they successful, in that they meet the narcissists’ self-goals. In contrast, when and how do these strategies unravel and become detrimental to the narcissists’ goals, and/or even become harmful to the people around them. This provides a basis for potential interventions targeted at alleviating these harmful consequences. Furthermore, our research program contributes to current controversies in the field, e.g., different manifestations of narcissism, gender differences in narcissism, or the role of self-esteem. At the theoretical level, this research provides a model for how to assess and understand complex personality types and dispositions beyond narcissism.