Arrogant, self-centred and unempathetic, narcissists seem easy enough to spot but how can you be sure? There is one simple question to find out, according to researchers.
You may be married to one, have a friend who you suspect might be one, or just have that one person you’ve always suspected but one thing is for sure: we’ve all crossed paths with a narcissist before. Or have we/ There hasn’t really been an easy way to know, and it even had top psychologists stumped, that is, until now.
Ohio State researchers believe they have developed and validated a new method to identify narcissism and it consists of one question.
Previously, long multiple choice questions have been the only way to find out once and for all, but over a series of 11 experiments involving more than 2,200 people of all ages, the researchers found they could reliably identify narcissistic people by asking them this exact question (including the note):
To what extent do you agree with this statement: “I am a narcissist.” (Note: The word “narcissist” means egotistical, self-focused, and vain).
They asked participants to rate themselves on a scale of one (not very true of me) to seven (very true of me), and results were found to mimic the participants responses to the widely used Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI).
The difference is that this new survey — which the researchers call the Single Item Narcissism Scale (SINS) — has one question, while the NPI has 40 questions to answer.
“People who are willing to admit they are more narcissistic than others probably actually are more narcissistic,” said Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and a professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University.
“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”.
So why is it important to learn about narcissism? Co-author Sara Konrath of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy said, “Narcissistic people have low empathy, and empathy is one key motivator of philanthropic behaviour such as donating money or time to organisations”. Essentially, we need to convert this self-importance into a kinder existence for the greater good.
“Overall, narcissism is problematic for both individuals and society. Those who think they are already great don’t try to improve themselves,” Bushman said.
“And narcissism is bad for society because people who are only thinking of themselves and their own interests are less helpful to others”.
We want to know: Have you ever dealt with a narcissist? Will you ask someone this question?