Before I start, I just wanted to get 1 thing clear: This isn’t a rant, rather it is a psychological analysis of people who work in academia as professors or lab instructors. It’s socially common for people who work in academia (college or any other educational institution) to have developed some sort of narcissistic persona or disorder which can not only impact themselves but the students that they teach on a regular basis. This is important because, thousands of student fall victim to their overarching expectations which just results in students feeling bad, a lower GPA, and a never-ending cycle.
I will be posting my lab report and the instructional guidelines (which I most definitely followed, ask anyone lol). I’ll also put up the comments which I will analyze using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and Revision IV (DSM-IV). A couple of anecdotal will also be discussed. Okay without further a due, I think it is time to put my neuroscience degree to good use.
*Note, just like all my other posts I always change the names of these people for privacy reasons.
My Microbiology Lab Report and the Guidelines
So the following is the expectations listed in the guideline that was posted by my lab instructor (I suggest that you open each image in a separate window for convenience), let’s call him Kepler Uranus or K. Uranus for short.
I, myself, tutor young high schoolers and one of the most effective pedagogical method is to give constructive criticism. In other words, you compliment the things that they did right so that they can continue doing those good things; positive feedback to encourage good skills while stating parts that did not work so well or could be improved on. If you deviate from this method, like K. Uranus did, it’s no longer constructive criticism instead it is insulting. If you look at the yellow highlighted sections, you can see that it is just straight up saying what is wrong and no comments on what was done decently. This is also bad because now the student (poor moi) does not know what I can improve on for the next lab report. I am basically here just looking at my lab report and thinking, “everything is wrong then?”
I also want to point out a common logical bias found in K. Uranus’s comments. They are not highlighted but you can see that he uses the subjunctive tense a lot with phrases like “should have” or “would have been.” This points to the impression that K. Uranus’s idea of a good lab report is the only good way to do a lab report. This may correlate to closed-mindedness to other forms of rhetoric, which again is common in people who work in academia (remember the egotistical and narcissism traits in psychology? Oh how I pity this lad). Now what is really egotistical is that K. Uranus stated that “Everyone can benefit from having someone to proofread their lab reports. It can be difficult to tell if you are being clear in your own writing, so having a friend read it can be very helpful.” In my lab report, there are reviews from other students stated (I have no idea if K. Uranus even looked over them), but having a pre-assumption is not very indicative of the whole situation. So, personally, I would not have done that and would have investigated further.
High-Ego Scientists at the Top of the Hierarchy
Narcissism, a personality associated for a need of power and according to the DSM-IV: “An enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectation of the individual’s culture, is pervasive and inflexible, has an onset in adolescence or early adulthood, is stable over time, and leads to distress or impairment. ” Now, before I continue to remember that with any category, a person may not hit every criterion, but shows
(1) has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
- K. Uranus tends to keep it a habit to let everyone in the lab that he is always correct and is never wrong. Ex: Goes up to random students to a workbench and tells them what they’re supposed to be doing even if it is the wrong experiment.
(2) is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
- Did not observe
(3) believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
- K. Uranus tends to abuse his power as a lab instructor and promotes himself as top-notch, even though that lab instructors are not the same thing as PhDs or MDs.
(4) requires excessive admiration
- Did not observe
(5) has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
- K. Uranus hits this criterion many times that one sentence is not enough
(6) is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
- Did not observe
(7) lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
- Hits this criterion many times that one sentence is not enough
(8) is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
- K. Uranus tends to align with people in the lab who are also lab instructors to boost self-ego and self-image
(9) shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
- Treats students as incoherent children with mental retardation. Has a petty persona against people who contradict him. Arrogant actions often get in the way with working with students since it burns bridges; students tend to feel insecure due to his actions so they do not seek any future help.
So as you can see these traits are very volatile and do not benefit both K. Uranus or any of the students in the lab.
Analysis: How Did Narcissism Make Its Way into Academia?
An article, named “Science falling victim to crisis of narcissism“, talks about the cut-throat environment that shaped the hostile nature seen in people like K. Uranus. I believe that due to the cut-throat nature of the environment, academia is filled with people trying to get recognition for their scholarly work, while the pre-meds running around are making frenemies along the way. Because of this, the scientific community is actually a good place to study how a social dominance hierarchy and narcissism shape social interactions within a community.
Scientists with High-Ego at the Top
Things that I have noticed by high-ego individuals in top academic positions like K. Uranus:
- these types of scientists tend to score high on traits like agency, hostility and arrogance, factors that all relate to narcissism
- personality analysis suggests that students entering the science field or profession score high in agreeableness and are less ambitious and agency-driven than students majoring in medicine, law and or business
Due to these findings, people of high-ego personalities in leadership positions in the life sciences (ex. my microbiology instructor K. Uranus), suggests that the hostile academic environment promotes pressure to keep the most ambitious students or that well0liked scientific apprentices are somehow transformed into dominant leaders when they reach power.
Factor 1: Social attention for status
- To rise in the hierarchy is to become more visible, or more popular (think of it like brothers and sisters fighting for parental attention)
- The importance of social attention for human status is easy to understand for us scientists, as we seek
- In hindsight, this dependence on visibility explains why even if the published work is the same, the outcome for a scientist’s career (or whatever is left of it) will differ if published in a famous journal than a random one.
Due to the above reasons, recognition separates the successful from the failures. This means that when K. Uranus is recognized by her peers, he is more dominant, which means more driven and more egotistical.
Factor 2: Narcissism shaping the scientific community
- Personalities are self-delusional and determine lifestyle interactions with other people
- They create a filter between our conscious understanding of the world and our real action
- As a product of evolution, humans have not been equipped with a mind to think and act with impartiality (treat everyone the way we want to be treated), but to take advantage of others
A first influence is the career path chosen. We expect a narcissist to be more attracted to a curriculum that provides a way for power and title – such as a surgeon or a lab instructor for a microbiology lab (K. Uranus).
The second influence of narcissism is that the desire to get ahead could boost the motivation to succeed, thus reinforcing passion, a key factor for success in science
Experts in social-personality suggest that narcissists are actually not usually any better than the others, but they perform better when they get their recognition. So higher dependence of narcissism on peer recognition makes them alive when getting public attention. In other words, without recognition, K. Uranus is virtually nothing since he does not have a vial of “life force” or essence to drink out of.
Collateral Damage: Self-confidence and the ability to gain more power by destroying others.
Self- absorption, and desire for originality are traits associated with narcissism that can be positive when done right (K. Uranus did not present any positive interaction of confidence). For example, a positive of self-confident individuals are more being more persuasive, especially with acquaintance since self-confidence tends to be viewed as a sign of competence in humans. K. Uranus, on the other hand, showed a lack of empathy towards his subjects thus, the self-involved confidence did not vibe as competence but rather as a mask. This is probably why everyone did not go to him for help when we were all working on our lab reports.
Another thing to look at is the effect of reputation. Think of reputation as your electric bill, if you can maintain your energy consumption at a nice level then you are happy. If not, then you might find yourself at either extreme: Low or high. The two facets of reputation are scientific drive (S-Drive) and narcissistic drive (N-drive). N-drive tends to be very high in narcissists since it is associated with inflated self and dominance. K. Uranus’ N-drive seems to belong near the medium.
One thing that I have learned throughout this experience is that although that I have to deal with people like this, it is making me better experienced to deal with more difficult people in the future. This includes self-inflated, egotistical narcissists and I am proud of the work that I have done so far.
Here is my midterm grade for microbiology. 40/43 = 93%. I had to use a redacter to black out the other students’ grades and student number for identification purposes, so I am sorry if it looks weird. In summary, regardless of what or who you’re dealing with, you can shine bright like a diamond and make these self-absorbed snooty snob buckets look like cheap rusty copper. So keep on grinding guys.
Ciao for now and stay flossy everyone.