In Search of Truth I: Hubris and Narcissism
Let’s take it back one step: why the closed system and why the narcissism that helps to create the closed system and is reinforced by it (another positive feedback loop). The narcissism and overly optimistic and inflated sense of expertise that results from and is reinforced by the closed system is related, (in some contexts), to something that social psychologists call the hubris hypothesis (Aronson, 2018). According to this hypothesis, a person’s (especially a leader’s) absolute optimism and surety is received more positively than the perspective offered by a leader whose optimism is described in a comparative manner (providing some perspective and balance on a positive outlook). While comparisons can provide more balanced understanding (assuming the comparisons are based on sound research), psychological research shows that audiences tend to dismiss these as being negative and tend to believe the absolute optimistic viewpoint – people tend to want certainty. Herein lies the risk, where knowledgeable leaders with narcissistic tendencies, make absolute statements about the future which are then rarely challenged by those around them.
The Don Quixote Hypothesis
There is a slightly different way to view the narcissism of experts. This second perspective is offered by psychologists with a more clinical orientation. It is referred to poetically as the Don Quixote Hypothesis. We see a graphic and poetic illustration of narcissism in Cervantes’ narrative regarding a character called Don Quixote. As an aging man the Don was not satisfied with the everyday. He looked back to the age of chivalry and valor—a romantic era that was ending at the time Cervantes wrote his epic tale. Quixote elevates Aldonza, a sluttish serving girl at the Inn, to a much higher status (as Dulcinea). Windmills become foreboding ogres. A barber’s bowl is transformed into a knight’s helmet. Don Quixote typifies a narcissistic leader who is dominated by inflated spirit (“in-spiration”).