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千禧一代年轻人是否更加自恋?

更新时间:2017-12-14 19:48:15 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Millennials are narcissistic? The evidence is not so simple
千禧一代年轻人是否更加自恋?

At the next table in the cafe where I was working this morning, a young woman spent a whole hour talking excitedly to her older companion about herself, her hopes and aspirations for her job, her romantic relationship and her home. It was hard to avoid the impression that she thought herself the centre of the Universe, her dreams eminently fascinating and important.

今天早晨,我在一家咖啡馆工作。在我的邻桌,有一位年轻女士兴高采烈地与年纪较长的同伴大谈她自己、她对工作的理想、她的感情史以及她的家庭。她的言谈举止让人很难不产生这种印象:她认为自己是宇宙的中心,她自己的个人梦想迷人而重要。

Is this simply what young people or “millennials” (people born after 1980) are like these days? Fuelled by the endless opportunity for self-promotion and self-reflection on social media, combined with a wider culture that’s arguably placed greater emphasis on the importance of self-esteem than learning, have young people’s personalities changed from earlier generations to become more narcissistic and selfish?

现在的年轻人——或者"千禧一代"(出生于1980年以后)都是这样的吗?当今的社交媒体为人们提供了无数自我展示和自我陶醉的机会,同时学校社会认为维护学生自尊比学习成绩更重要。那么,当今年轻人与上一辈人相比是否更加自恋和自私?

Psychologists are divided. Some say the evidence that the young have become “Generation Me” is overwhelming, yet others counter just as strongly that this simply isn’t true. Meanwhile, more encouraging evidence is emerging to show positive trends in how our personalities seem to be changing over time, similar to the way that intelligence has increased over the generations.

心理学家对此意见不一。有些人认为,很多证据都表明,大多数年轻人都是"自我一代",但其他人则全盘反对这种观点。与此同时,近来出现的很多证据表明,我们的性格特征将随着时间推移而变化,就如同下一代的智力水平一般都要比上一代强一样。

The most vocal proponent of the view that young people today are more narcissistic and self-centred than in previous generations is psychologist Jean Twenge at San Diego State University, California, who has been studying the shift for more than 15 years.

"与上一代人相比,当下的年轻人更加自恋以及自私"这一论点最知名的支持者是加州圣迭戈州立大学(San Diego State University)心理学家杰恩·特文奇(Jean Twenge)。在过去15年里,他一直在研究这一趋势。

Twenge believes that the rise in narcissism has its roots in cultural changes, especially the increased focus on individualism through the last few decades. For example, with parents, and society as a whole, today arguably placing greater value on young people’s individual achievement over their civic duty.

特文奇认为,自恋主义抬头的根源在于文化变革,尤其是过去一、二十年间个人主义的膨胀。例如,现如今无论父母还是整个社会都认为,年轻人的个人成就比他们的社会责任更加重要。

Another possible theory is that it’s down to what’s been dubbed the “self-esteem movement” – the idea that many of society’s problems, from drug addiction to violence, can be traced to people having low self-esteem. Alas, countless studies have shown this simply isn’t true; in fact, myth 33 in the book 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology is “Low self-esteem is a major cause of psychological problems”. Nevertheless, thanks to this movement, especially through the 1980s and 1990s, efforts were made to protect young people from negative feedback, such as poor grades, for fear it may damage their self-esteem. At the same time, self-love and feelings of being “special” were nurtured.

其他心理学家则认为这一潮流的源头在于"自尊运动"——这一运动的倡导者认为,包括滥用毒品和暴力犯罪在内的很多社会问题的起因都是由于人们缺乏自尊。然而,有很多研究都表明这种说法站不住脚;事实上,《50个大众心理学谬误》(50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology)一书里的第33个谬误就是:"自尊不足是造成心理问题的主要原因"。无论如何,1980-1990年代出现这一运动后,社会各界做了很大努力保护年轻人免受负面反馈影响,例如不再强调他们糟糕的学习成绩,以免打击其脆弱的自尊心。同时,开始培养年轻人的自爱和"独特"个性。

Writing in New York magazine recently, Jesse Singal describes how the self-esteem movement especially took hold in American schools, which adopted exercises like Koosh ball: “A kid tosses the ball to another kid and compliments them — I like your shirt. Then they toss the ball to someone else and compliment them — You’re good at soccer. The good feelings travel with the Koosh ball across the room, back and forth and back and forth.”

杰西·辛加尔(Jesse Singal)最近在《纽约》(New York)杂志上发表文章说明为何自尊运动会起源并植根于美国学校,这些学校普遍把考试当成一个噗嗤(Koosh)球游戏:"一个学生漫不经心地把球扔给另一个学生,然后恭维他一句,你的衬衫很漂亮,第二个学生再把球扔给别的学生然后恭维他说,你踢球很棒。随着噗嗤球在房间里传来传去,所有人都很高兴。"

Given these cultural trends, it certainly seems plausible that today’s youth might have learned to see themselves as gifted and crave admiration.

在这种文化趋势下,今天的年轻人个个认为自己是天才,并渴望得到他人的崇拜。

Much of Jean Twenge’s case is based on the “Narcissistic Personality Inventory”, a measure that asks people to choose between 40 pairs of self-descriptive items, one of which is narcissistic in tone (“I will be a success”) and the other not (“I am not too concerned about success”). Twenge’s studies show that scores have risen among US college students over time. For example, she and her colleagues found that, among a 2009 cohort, almost two-thirds of undergraduates were more narcissistic than the cohort average from 1982.

特文奇引用的大部分数据来自于"自恋性格数据库"。数据库建立过程中,要求被调查者勾选40对自我评价选项,每一对选项中的一个评价是自恋性的("我会获得成功"),另一个评价则与之相反("我不在意是否获得成功")。特文奇的研究表明,随着时间的推移,美国大学生的得分不断增高。例如,她和她的同事发现,2009年接受调查的大学生中,有三分之二要比1982年的调查对象更加自恋。

Summarising her position in a 2013 review, Twenge concluded: “At the moment, the evidence clearly supports the view that today’s young generation (born after 1980) is – at least compared to previous generations – more 'Generation Me' than 'Generation We'.”

在2013年发表的总结文章中,特文奇得出结论:"目前,证据明显支持今天的年轻人(1980年后出生) ——至少与上一代人相比-更加强调自我而非集体。"

Others disagree, among them Jeffrey Arnett at Clark University, Worcester. He argues that US college students are hardly representative of young people as a whole and he also doubts whether the Narcissistic Personality Inventory really measures narcissism at all. For instance, the supposedly narcissistic option on the inventory could sometimes actually be a measure of benign, or harmless confidence – he points to examples such as “I am assertive” versus “I wish I were more assertive”.

有人则反对这种看法,其中就包括位于伍斯特(Worcester)的克拉克大学(Clark University)的杰弗里·阿奈特(Jeffery Arnett)。他说,美国大学生很难代表所有年轻人,同时他怀疑"自恋性格数据库"能否真正反映人们的自恋程度。例如,数据库中很多自恋选项其实是一种温和无害的自信,例如"我很自信果断"与"我希望我能更自信果断一些"。

Citing the fact that the young are more likely to volunteer and more tolerant of diversity, Arnett says his view is directly the opposite of Twenge’s: today’s emerging adults are not only less narcissistic, they’re “an exceptionally generous generation that holds great promise for improving the world”.

阿奈特说,例如,年轻人更愿意担任志愿者,对多样化也更宽容,他的观点与特文奇完全相反:今天正在走向成年的年轻人不仅不自恋,反而"是有望改变世界的,极为慷慨大方的一代"。

In fact, there’s mounting evidence that this might just be the case. Take a study which is about to be published in the journal Psychological Science. Personality expert Brent Roberts and his colleagues compared scores on the Narcissism Inventory among several cohorts of over 50,000 students who attended three American universities in three separate eras: the 1990s, 2000s and early 2010s. Unlike most of the earlier research, Roberts’ team didn’t just look at narcissism directly, but also other, related traits such as vanity, entitlement and leadership.

事实上,越来越多的证据证实这种观点。以即将发表于《心理科学》(Psychological Science)杂志上的一项研究为例。性格研究专家布伦特·罗伯茨(Brent Roberts)和他的同事比较了在三个不同年代:1990年代、2000年代和2010年代进入美国大学就读的5万名学生的"自恋数据库"。与之前的大多数研究不同,罗伯茨的团队并没有单纯研究自恋数据,而是同时研究了虚荣心、权力欲和领导欲等性格特征。

They also accounted for the fact that students from different generations may interpret the statements they were tested with differently. However the researchers sliced the data, they found the same pattern: narcissism has been declining among young people since the 90s.

它们还指出:不同时代的学生会以不同方式解读题目。研究者仔细研究了数据发现了同样的趋势:自从90年代以来,学生的自恋情节在不断弱化。

In a press release, Roberts also added that older generations may have forgotten their own youthful narcissism; it fades with age. “We have faulty memories,” he said, “so we don’t remember that we were rather self-centered when we were that age.”

在一次记者会上,罗伯茨称,年纪较大的人可能已经忘记了自己年轻时曾经自恋;随着时间的推移,自恋情节会慢慢消失。"我们会失去很多记忆,"他说,"所以会忘掉我们年轻时也曾经一样自恋。"

This also chimes with a new study just published in New Zealand, which found no evidence of rising entitlement, an aspect of narcissism, among millennials. Intriguingly, it also hinted that the higher sense of entitlement among younger people is a developmental effect, not a generational one. In other words, we generally feel less entitled as we get older.

无独有偶,最近刚在新西兰发布的一项研究也发现,80后没有表现出更大的权力欲(权力欲是自恋情节的一种表征形式)。有趣的是,研究还表明,年轻人更高的权力欲实际上是一种发育效应,和他们所处在什么年代无关。换句话说,随着人们年龄的增长,权力欲一般会逐渐下降。

For their part, Twenge and her colleagues are convinced that narcissism is on the rise. Among other things, they’ve discovered that more recent pop songs contain more words pertaining to self-focus compared to 80s hits, and that more individualistic words and phrases, such as “I am special”, have been on the rise in books since 1960. They’ve even speculated that this same individualistic culture could be responsible for common names falling out of fashion with parents for their children.

特文奇和她的同事坚持认为人们的自恋情节在不断膨胀。证据之一就是,与1980年代流行金曲相比,近期的流行音乐更加强调自我,同时报刊书籍里的个人主义词语(例如,"我是个特殊人物")与1960年代相比出现了大幅增长。他们甚至还猜想,正是由于个人主义文化的膨胀,越来越多的父母才会摒弃大众化的名字,而给孩子起独特少见的名字。

These scholarly debates are raging against a backdrop of rising of social media use, selfies and the habit of constantly updating everyone else with what you’re doing, thinking and feeling. It’s hard to resist the conclusion that this technological and cultural change may be fostering a rise in vanity and narcissism.

学者们对社交媒体、手机自拍、以及随时随地晒个人生活感受的习惯大加批评。很难想象这些科技和文化变革不会诱发年轻人的虚荣心的自恋情节。

Twenge has certainly made the link. In a 2013 article for the New York Times, she called social media a “narcissism enabler” but conceded that there is little evidence to show that social media actually causes narcissism. Indeed, accumulating data suggest that yes, narcissists are more likely to post selfies, but that doesn’t mean that posting selfies makes you a narcissist. In fact, there’s evidence that the more “agreeable” you are – trusting, warm and friendly – the more active you’re likely to be on social media.

特文奇在2013年为《纽约时报》(New York Times)撰写的一篇文章中,她把社交媒体称为"自恋狂促进者",但同时也承认,很难找到社交媒体引发自恋情节的确凿证据。大量数据表明,对,拥有自恋型人格的人会发更多自拍,但这并不意味着发自拍会让你更加自恋。事实上,有证据证明你越是性格随和,心情愉悦,就越喜欢玩社交媒体。

So much of the debate has been focused on narcissism, but what about the possibility that our characters are changing in positive ways? In fact, there is some good news.

关于自恋情节有诸多争论,但是自恋会不会赋予我们更好的性格特征?答案是肯定的。

Scientists have known for years that we’re getting cleverer, by around three IQ points per decade.

科学家们已经知道,人类正在变得越来越聪明。每隔10年,人类智商就会提高3个点。

It’s called the Flynn Effect after James Flynn, an academic from New Zealand who first came up with the idea. Years of incremental improvements have added up to a substantial increase in intelligence test scores from the 1930s to the present day. Explanations range from a decline in infectious diseases to better schooling, but now scientists are wondering if a similar effect has been shaping personality traits, too.

这种现象成为福林现象,因其发明人詹姆斯·福林(James Flynn)得名。从1930年代至今,年复一年的微小变化最终导致了智商测试结果的巨大提高。对于这一现象,人们提出了很多解释:传染病发病率下降、学校教育改进等等。但是科学家们怀疑,是否有一个类似效应也在同样塑造着现代人的性格特征。

A Finnish study released this year suggested that this might well be the case. The researchers, led by Markus Jokela at the University of Helsinki, analysed personality data from nearly half a million military conscripts born between 1962 and 1976, collected when they were aged 18 or 19. Jokela and his colleagues reported that over time, successive cohorts are scoring higher in extroversion-related traits, like sociability and being more energetic, and conscientiousness-related traits, like dutifulness and achievement striving.

芬兰科学家今年发布的的一项研究证实了这种效应的存在。由赫尔辛基大学马库斯·乔科拉(Jokela)领导的研究小组分析了1962-1976年出生的近50万名军队新兵,数据采集时,这些新兵的年龄介于18-19岁之间。乔科拉及其同事称,随着入伍时间的顺延,新兵的外向型性格特征(例如社交能力强、精力充沛)得分,以及责任感特征(例如恪守职责、努力实现目标)得分越来越高。

Intriguingly, they also found evidence of rising self-confidence. This may corroborate the research on rising narcissism depending on whether the confidence is seen as healthy or not, which the Finnish data can’t speak to.

有趣的是,它们还发现自信心不断增强的证据。问题的关键在于自信心是一种健康心态还是相反,芬兰的数据没能回答这一问题。

It seems it may well be true that young people today are more self-assured than in previous generations. Whether you see that as a healthy sign of confidence or a worrying signal of narcissism may well say more about you than it does about them.

似乎有一点能够肯定:现在的年轻人与他们的父兄相比更加自信。那么你认为这是一种健康心态,还是自恋自大的危险信号?这个问题的答案更多地揭示了你自己,而不是这些年轻人。

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