Think your obnoxious neighbor, your boss, the gal you're dating or your daughter might be a narcissist? Researchers at Indiana University, Ohio State University and Gettysburg College have developed and tested a pretty sure-fire way to confirm it: Ask.
The researchers launched 11 experiments in which 2,200 people across the age spectrum were asked one question, including the parenthetical explanation: "To what extent do you agree with this statement: 'I am a narcissist.' (Note: The word 'narcissist' means egotistical, self-focused and vain.)"
It was a 1 to 7 scale, with 7 being very narcissistic. Their responses were then compared to the results of other proven measures of narcissism, including the 40-question Narcissistic Personality Inventory.
And guess what? It turns out that people who are egotistical, self-focused and vain know it.
The name comes from Greek mythology. Narcissus fell in love with himself as he studied his own reflection in a pool of water.
The study was published in PLOS ONE. It said the use of the question to identify a narcissist "taps into the more fragile and less desirable components of narcissism," but the results are not correlated with self-esteem.
"People who are willing to admit they are more narcissistic than others probably actually are more narcissistic," Brad Bushman, study co-author and communication and psychology professor at Ohio State University, said in a written statement. "People who are narcissistic are almost proud of the fact. You can ask them directly because they don't see narcissism as a negative quality — they believe they are superior to other people and are fine with saying that publicly."
According to Today, "Narcissistic people have inflated egos; they often feel entitled, unique, and misunderstood because of these traits and often they alienate themselves from others. They also experience less empathy toward others."
Sara Konrath, an assistant professor at Indiana University and lead author of the study, told Today that the study was prompted by an experience she had socially. She was at a party in a group that included a colleague who appeared to the others to be egotistical. Sure enough, when she mentioned that she studied narcissism, that co-worker announced that he was one. She wondered if others would also be self-aware and willing to identify themselves that way.
Clinical psychologist Joseph Burgo of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, told USA Today he wasn't surprised people are willing to identify themselves that way.
"I think a big part of it is that we live in a culture that encourages narcissism it doesn't view bragging as a bad thing," he said. "We live in a culture of self-display."
Writes Melissa Dahl for New York Magazine: "And while Konrath was hesitant to roll with my hopes for non-scientific applications of her work ('So, like, should this be a standard first-date question?'), she did say that if someone specifically tells her they’re a narcissist, she takes them at their word."
If you think you might be a narcissist, PsychCentral offers a quiz to help you check.
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