On the other hand, research shows that the initial popularity of narcissists at the early stages of interpersonal interactions depends on the behavioral pathway that is triggered: expressive and dominant behaviors are associated with a positive evaluation, whereas arrogant and combative behaviors are associated with a negative evaluation. According to this research, narcissists may be more popular at first acquaintance because they are more likely to display behaviors that trigger a positive pathway, perhaps because they are trying to make a good first impression.

In line with this idea, W. Keith Campbell and Stacy Campbell proposed a new model of narcissism in which they argue that two particular time points are important. The “emerging zone” includes situations involving unacquainted individuals, early-stage relationships, and short-term contexts. In contrast, the “enduring zone” involves situations involving acquainted individuals, continuing relationships, and long-term consequences.

The costs of narcissism are seen primarily in the “enduring zone.” As the relationship develops, narcissists start displaying behaviors that are evaluated negatively, such as arrogance and aggression. Narcissists cyclically return to the emerging zone because they are addicted to the positive social feedback and emotional rush they get from this zone. They live in this zone. As a result, they are good at being popular, making new friends, and acquiring social status, but are really quite terrible at sustaining anything meaningful and intimate.