The research was conducted by Michigan State University in order to fill a void of “basic information about how narcissism changes across the adult life span.” The teams looked at a sample of 747 participants between the ages of 13 and 77, making it the largest study on the subject ever created.
William Chopik, a social-personality personality psychologist who co-authored the study, told Insider that his team defined hypersensitivity as “being unreceptive to others’ feedback and lashing out at any criticism toward one’s self.” In their research, they used it as a method to measure defensiveness in particular. They found that younger generations are less hypersensitive than older generations.
“Baby boomers may be more narcissistic than other generations because they grew up in a time when the government provided privileges like social security,” Chopik explained to the magazine.
“We found that more maladaptive forms of narcissism (e.g., hypersensitivity, willfulness) declined across life and individual autonomy increased across life,” the team concluded, according to an abstract explaining their work.
Chopik also said his team’s work points to a rosier view of the often embattled younger generations, who tend to be talked down to by boomers.
“Based on our study, there’s weak evidence that this [younger] generation is the worst in human history,” Chopik told Insider. “We know younger people on average are more narcissistic, but that goes away as they age. People will live their own lives and have experiences to lower that narcissism and mature.”