August 6, 2014
Want To Know If Someone Is Narcissistic? Just Ask Them!
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
If you’re looking for a foolproof way to determine whether or not someone is a vain or egotistical, the authors of a new PLOS ONE study have come up with what they claim is a foolproof way to find out by asking just one simple question.
The question in question – “To what extent do you agree with this statement: ‘I am a narcissist.’”
For their study, Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at the Ohio State University, and his colleagues explain how they conducted a series of 11 experiments involving over 2,200 people of all ages, and had them answer the above question by rating themselves on a scale of 1 (not very true of me) to 7 (very true of me).
The researchers said the one-item questionnaire also included an explanation of the word narcissist, which they defined as meaning egotistical, self-focused, and vain. They added that results of their Single Item Narcissism Scale (SINS) correlated very closely with several other validated measures of narcissism – including the widely used Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) which included 40 different questions that have to be answered.
“People who are not narcissists would never say that they are” because of the negative connotation of the traits associated with the term, co-author Sara Konrath, a researcher at Indiana University in Indianapolis, told Kim Painter of USA Today. “Somebody who is a narcissist doesn't think it's all that bad and is maybe even a little proud of it.”
“People who are willing to admit they are more narcissistic than others probably actually are more narcissistic,” Bushman, who was also joined on the study by colleagues from Gettysburg College, added in a statement. “People who are narcissists 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.”
Konrath explained that it is important to understand narcissism because it has an impact on society that extends far beyond the individual narcissist’s life. For instance, she said that people who are self-centered and egotistical by nature tend to lack empathy, which is one of the primary catalysts behind charity work and philanthropy.
“Overall, narcissism is problematic for both individuals and society. Those who think they are already great don't try to improve themselves,” Bushman added. “And narcissism is bad for society because people who are only thinking of themselves and their own interests are less helpful to others.”
“The results do seem like common sense,” said Washington Post reporter Rachel Feltman. “By definition, narcissists are egotistical, self-focused, and vain. It would follow that a true narcissist wouldn’t see self-absorption as something negative. And because narcissists tend to lack empathy, they’d probably have trouble understanding why a desire to put themselves first should be seen as a negative trait.”
However, the OSU professor emphasized that SINS should not be looked on as a replacement for longer, more in-depth narcissism questionnaires, such as the NPI. Those diagnostic tools provide more detailed information to researchers, including which specific type of narcissism that an individual has. The single-item test, however, can be useful for long surveys in order to avoid participants from becoming fatigued or distracted midway through.
The experiments also revealed that the SINS test was positively related to each of the seven subscales used by the NPI to measure the components of narcissism, including vanity, exhibitionism, exploitativeness, authority, superiority, self-sufficiency, and entitlement. One also reaffirmed previous research that narcissistic people were more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors and less likely to be able to remain in long-term romantic relationships.
Bushman also explained that scoring higher on the one-question quiz was linked to both good things and bad things. Those with higher narcissism scores were said to have more positive feelings, more extraversion, and marginally less depression. However, they were also less agreeable and more prone to anger, shame, guilt and fear.
How narcissistic are you? Take the test here.