The Best Words: Linguistic Indicators of Grandiose Narcissism in Politics

James E. Underberg, Anton Gollwitzer, Gabriele Oettingen, Peter M. Gollwitzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


At a 2015 campaign event, Donald Trump claimed, “I have the best words.” While remarks like these have inspired extensive commentary on grandiosity in politics, few studies have investigated how grandiosity manifests in political speech. This research finds that grandiose U.S. presidents (n = 35) use words differently than their humbler presidential counterparts, and differently than other grandiose individuals, including by using more “we-talk.” We theorize that grandiose individuals adjust their language based on context to find “the best words” for a particular audience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-281
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Language and Social Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • American presidency
  • grandiose narcissism
  • personality
  • politics
  • word use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language


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