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Why Narcissist Rewrites History (Recency Bias)

Uploaded 4/18/2024, approx. 21 minute read

You consider yourself a divinity, a deity, a god-like entity replete with genius and brilliance and the reification of perfection, in all likelihood you are a narcissist and you suffer from a cognitive distortion, delusional in nature, known as grandiosity.

That is of course unless you are a pharaoh or a Roman emperor or Jesus Christ Himself.

In all other cases you'd better see a therapist.

So grandiosity is a way, a method, a strategy, a mechanism to falsify the world, to falsify or reframe the perception of reality so that it conforms to the narcissist's inflated, fantastic, self-aggrandizing, self-image and self-perception.

Narcissist believes himself to be all these things because he is trying to compensate for a brittle, fragile, vulnerable state of mind.

But grandiosity is only one cognitive distortion of many.

Narcissist's reality testing is totally compromised and impaired.

Narcissists are no longer with us.

They are in a fantastic paracosm.

They have gravitated and emigrated to a realm to which none of us has access, luckily for you.

And the narcissist suffers from multiple cognitive distortions but also from multiple biases.

And today I'm going to discuss two or three of them.

There are many, many others.

When you can search my channel, I have discussed other distortions and biases in other videos.

But let us today deal with a few more.

Start with what is known as the recency bias.

Human memory is fallible.

We all make mistakes.

We all commit errors when we try to revisit the past in our minds.

Actually science says that there's no such thing as memory.

What happens is when we are asked to remember something, we put together hastily all kinds of elements and motions and smells and images and we put them together and we concoct a memory.

That's why eyewitness memory and personal recall and autobiography are not reliable, not reliable at all.

So we are all fallible, as I said.

We all make mistakes.

And one of these mistakes is that we experience current problems more acutely than past problems.

We recall past difficulties, past crises, past vicissitudes, past problematics.

We recall them as if they were less onerous, less challenging, less taxing, less demanding than the problems we are faced with today.

So there is a waiting error.

There's an error in assigning weights to the past and to the present.

The present has a larger weight than the past and a problem in the past would look minuscule, small, manageable compared to the very same problem in the present.

We tend to think better of experiences in retrospect.

We are, in other words, nostalgic.

We tend to idealize the past and to devalue the present.

And this is known as recency bias.

When you see "Make America Great Again", this yearning for the supposed good old days, that's a recency bias.

It's a cognitive bias and it favors recent events over historic ones.

It favors them, not necessarily positively.

It simply regards them as more pertinent, stronger, more intense, more relevant and so on and so forth.

It's in short a memory bias.

A greater importance is assigned to a recent event than to a previous event or to an event in the past.

Now, this should not be confused with other types of biases, which I will discuss momentarily, like anchoring and recency effect and so on and so forth.

Although recency bias is related to what is known as a serial position effect or the recency effect.

Again, I will discuss it in a minute.

It's also not related to the recency illusion, which again I'm going to discuss momentarily.

While all people, normal and healthy people and even people with mental health issues, all people have a recency bias, which is common to all humanity.

All people tend to regard the past as more benign than the present, even if they say otherwise, by the way.

Social tests and experiments and studies have demonstrated that even when people say the past was much worse than the present, actually they assign an emotional weight to the past that is affirmative, that is positive, they are nostalgic, they hark back to olden times.

The narcissist is the only exception, as usual, whereas most people regard the past as more positive than the present.

The narcissist regards the past as way more negative than any possible present or future.

The narcissist has a reverse recency bias.

The old days are bad.

The old days were challenging.

The old days were humiliating.

The old days were horrible and evil and the old days are best done.

The narcissist needs to falsify reality this way because it supports his victimhood stance.

The old days are the days that gave rise to the narcissist's victimhood.

He has been victimized in the past.

In order to claim victimhood in the present, the narcissist needs to cast the past as a period of victimization, of abuse, of maltreatment and mistreatment, of discrimination, of hatred, unmitigated hatred towards him, of the envy of others and so on and so forth.

The narcissist needs to paint the past as a period in which he has been the target of malign intent, malicious designs and malevolent actions.

So the narcissist is a reverse recency bias because he needs to consider himself a victim.

The narcissist's world or narrative is a morality play.

The narcissist, like any mythical hero, overcomes ostensibly insurmountable obstacles and prevails from zero to hero.

The good, which is the narcissist, the good prevails over evil.

There's a victory here.

It's a triumphant storyline and to enhance, to amplify, to emphasize the enormousness of this victory, the miraculousness of this triumph, the narcissist needs to really exaggerate the evils of the past.

How he fell prey to predators and evildoers and schemers and cunning people and psychopaths and so on and so forth.

So he paints the past as a very dark period with no redeeming feature.

And having survived it, he acquires the etiquette, he acquires the label of a survivor and a victim.

This not only supports his victimhood status, his victimhood claims and grievances, but it also renders him a superhuman hero, a superhero.


Okay, so there's a reverse recency bias in narcissism.

This is also common among people whose identity consists of their victimhood.

People who regard victimhood as a form of identity, identity politics maybe.

So these people who brandish their credentials as victims, brag about being victims, boast about how they have survived the worst imaginable, compete with other victims, elevate themselves above their abuses morally and otherwise.

This kind of people, people whose victimhood is their life, people whose victimhood defines them, directs them, guides them, imbues their life with meaning, serves to explain their personal history.

This kind of people also suffer a reverse recency bias where the past is all bad and then there's a period of triumph and prevailing and then there's a present and in the present there's a victim, but a victim who is also endowed with superhuman qualities.

For example, super empathy among the empath community.

Empaths are of course covert narcissists.

Another example of a bias is the anchoring effect.

The anchoring effect is when you judge or decide something based on a reference point or an anchor and the reference point or anchor could be completely irrelevant, completely irrelevant.

When you're given a piece of information, you're given some data, you would tend naturally to compare other data to the data that you already possess.

The data that you possess provide you with a sense of safety, stability, orientation.

You can navigate, it's like a compass.

So you would tend to compare all future incoming data to the data that you already possess.

You already have.

This would massively influence your decision making process, the choices that you allied on.

This is known as anchoring.

So for example, if you want to buy a car, you would compare the price of the car to the price of another car next to it.

And if the price of the car you are contemplating is lower than the price of the car next to it, you would automatically, reflexively consider the second car cheap.

This is an example of an anchoring bias.

And this applies not only of course to numbers such as prices or it applies to other types of data and information, historical data, gossip, rumors, conspiracy theories and so on.

So for example, anchoring is a basic feature of human cognition.

We tend to latch onto information we already have as an island of stability around which we can construct a fortress to cope with the roiling oceans of the unknown, more or less.

That's more or less a definition of anchoring.

The narcissist suffers from extreme anchoring bias.

Anchoring is very problematic because it distorts and deforms the perception of reality in ways which are insidious and very difficult to discern.

Now the narcissist anchors all his behaviors and especially his self valuation.

The narcissist anchors his self perception, self image in a way that is biased.

So he would use specific data, he would select specific data from the environment to allow him to compare himself to this data in ways which affirm and buttress and uphold and support his grandiose inflated self image.

Narcissist engaged therefore in what I would call selective anchoring bias.

They don't react just to any random piece of data.

They react to selected groups of information and they choose this information so as to aggrandize themselves.

It's kind of relative positioning, kind of elevating yourself by comparison.

Now anchoring is one of the mechanisms in operation during the devaluation phase when the narcissist compares himself to you, the devalued per se, object and feels superior.

But narcissist always feels superior to others.

They always believe themselves to be supreme in the top echelon.

So they are always engaged in anchoring.

They always compare and they always compare favorably to themselves and unfavorably to others.

And this anchoring bias is at the core of the cognitive distortion of grandiosity.

It distorts reality.

And this distortion is what we call grandiosity.

In short we could say that grandiosity is a form of anchoring bias but much more complex because grandiosity includes not only an anchoring bias but other biases.

Grandiosity is a compendium of biases in effect.

So the narcissist goes around comparing himself all the time to other people, comparing his accomplishments to other people's accomplishments, comparing his situations to other people's situations, etc.

Always comparing.

It's a comparison machine all the time.

It's like, you know, how many Facebook likes?

It's the same with the narcissist.

He collects virtual likes in his mind and he positions himself all the time.

This comparison allows the narcissist to convince himself of his own perfection and genius and brilliance and omniscience and omnipotence and so on and so forth.

Of course, if you choose a low enough benchmark, anyone would be a genius.

Anyone would be more accomplished and so on.

And this is what the narcissist does in his anchoring, selective anchoring bias.

He chooses benchmarks that aggrandize him, makes him look good in comparison.

And he would tend, for example, to socialize with people who are much, much less intelligent than him, much less good looking than him, much less accomplished than him.

So as to feel superior, he would tend to surround himself with yes men and otherwise intellectually challenged dubious people.

He would always create environments which would allow him to engage in positive anchoring, and saying to himself, "Compared to this anchor, compared to this piece of information, compared to this person, I'm godlike.

I'm definitely godlike.

No question about it.

Anchoring is a serious problem, serious distortion of reality.

It allows you to misperceive even ostensibly objective things like the price of a car or the orbit of the planet of Mars.

There was an experiment by Shevif and others in 1958.

There's assimilation and effects of anchoring stimuli on judgments.

And they demonstrated how people misjudge the orbit of Mars because they compare it to the orbit of Earth.

So it could lead to serious problems in judgment and appraisal and evaluation, even in the sciences.

In the case of the narcissists, there's only anchoring bias.

Like anchoring biases always on together with all the other biases.

The recency illusion is the belief or the impression that something you've just learned is recent.

It's new.

It's new to you.

But you would tend to assume or to think or to believe that it's new period.

Since you haven't heard of it before, it must be new.

And this is known as the recency illusion.

This is a term coined by Arnold S a lot.

So he says, it's a new idea.

No one has thought about this idea before.

Oh, he learns something.

And then he goes around and he says, I am super updated.

I'm cutting edge.

I'm bleeding edge.

I've just learned this amazing, totally new concept.

I'm a harbinger.

I'm a pioneer.

Even though the concept you just learned is 58 years old or something.

So there is a time distortion here.

All these biases involve time distortions.

There's a time distortion here.

The narcissist needs to believe that he is a genius, that any thought that crosses his mind is unprecedented, is a first, is a breakthrough.

And so everything needs to be new.

Everything that crosses the narcissist's mind must be new.

The narcissist is an engine of innovation and a genius of transformation.

So anything, even the most mundane pedestrian thoughts of the narcissist are treasures, precious things that should be valued and recorded for posterity.

And so there is this recency illusion.

The narcissist also likes to consider himself as super up to date, a constant pioneer, someone who shows the way to others, someone who engages in what is known as creative destruction, creative disruption, an innovator, an inventor, an explorer, a leader, a guide, a mentor, a guru and so on.

So everything the narcissist learns, he would tend to ascribe to the recent past.

He would say, this is so new, no one has heard of it.

So I'm the one who is teaching everyone else about this new concept.

Even though I have not invented it, even though I'm not the one who came up with it, I am the one who is popularizing it.

I am the one who is educating and edifying and teaching everyone.

But in the majority of cases, the narcissist would actually falsify history and reality and make counterfactual claims, not because he's a liar, not because he's a plagiarist, not because he's a con artist, although some of them are, but because he needs to believe that ideas that cross his mind are truly breakthroughs, are truly unprecedented.

It's the first time he's the inventor, he's the discoverer.

And so the narcissist lies to himself and to others about all kinds of ideas and concepts and theories and theorems and discoveries and claims that they're his, that he came up with them.

When in effect, he picked them up somewhere.

He picked them up from other people, he picked them up from the internet, he picked them up from books, he read while he was a child, he picked up, he picked up things.

And then he recycles them.

And he claims that they're his.

He came up with his concept, his idea, his invention.

This theory, and so this is the recency illusion.

The serial position effect is a tendency to recall the first and the last items in a series.

But the first and the last items are recalled the best, most vividly, while anything in between and everything in between is vaguely remembered.

And this is known as a serial position effect.

This was first described by Herman Ebbinghaus.

He performed studies on himself and later on others and he found out to his amazement that recall accuracy varies as a function of the item's position in a list.

He found out that the first item on the list, the last one, he remembered clearly, unequivocally, but he was not quite sure about the items in between.

And this is called free recall.

This ties in with the recency effect and ties in with something called the primacy effect.

But coming back to narcissism, the narcissist would try to position himself as either the last or the first.

I am the first to have done this.

I am the first to have come up with it.

I am the first to have thought about this.

I am the first to have innovated.

I am the first to have used this method or process.

I am the first.

Or he would position himself as the culmination, as the epitome, as the last item on the list beyond which there is no need to proceed.

He would position himself as the compendium of everything that came before him.

It's a little reminiscent of Islam where the messenger Muhammad says that he is the last of a line.

There's a line of prophets and he's the last.

And there will be no other prophet or messenger after him.

He concludes the list.

He closes the list.

Christians do the same.

They say, "I'm the last.

In me reside all my predecessors, all their knowledge, all their discoveries, all their experience, all their wisdom are deposited in me.

I'm the repository of all these things.

And so I am the culmination and reification and representation and embodiment of everything that came before me.

Or I'm the pioneer.

I'm the first.

There hasn't been anyone before me who has been doing this, etc.

I initiated the whole thing.

I started the whole thing." And that is a serial position effect bias of the narcissist.

As you see, narcissists have a very convoluted and conflicted relationship with time and with truth.

And when they combine the two, they distort reality.

They distort the perception of time.

And then they derive from these distortions and from these biases, information that they claim to be the truth.

You see where the problem arises.

You see why narcissists are widely considered wrongly as liars.

They're not liars.

They're confabulators and they suffer from enormous cognitive biases.

They don't perceive reality the way you do.

As far as they're concerned, their fantasies are totally real.

Every thought, every idea that crosses their mind must be real.

Why?

Because it crossed their mind and their godlike.

They're infallible.

They never make mistakes.

So if anything crosses a narcissist's mind, it must be true.

And so there's a situation here where the narcissist constantly shapeshifts himself in reality and himself in relation to reality, recasts the past in order to emphasize the present and then falsifies the present in order to conform to a grandiose self-image.

And it's a mess.

It's a mess.

You can't reverse engineer the narcissist's process of thinking because it doesn't lead anywhere and it doesn't start anywhere.

It's a reflexive reaction to the need to reframe reality, falsify history and recast the present in order to support a totally imaginary, fantastic, fictitious, grandiose self-narrative known as the false self.

And because it's false, because it's fantastic, because it's a paracosm, because it's a movie essentially, you can't expect veracity.

It's not a documentary.

Nasty's life is not a documentary.

It's a feature film.

And as you would not expect to study history from a feature film, you would not expect to study, not expect to learn anything meaningful about the narcissist from the way he talks or reports about his life, about his past, about his accomplishments, about his thoughts, about his ideas, about his content.

None of this is true.

Not in the malevolent or malicious sense of lying, there's no lying here.

None of it is true because all of it is rewritten and reframed a little like the Communist Party in Russia that used to brush out or retouch personalities from editions of the Bolshoi Encyclopedia.

The narcissist rewrites the same book time and again and again, and no edition is similar to the previous one.

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