At some point in your life, you may have wondered if that friend, family member, acquaintance or co-worker is a narcissist . Understandably, many behaviors can be associated with this personality category, although it is difficult to know to what extent these behaviors are a real problem.In a previous article I spoke about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and its characteristic features.
But today’s text goes further by starting with a question that, in the opinion of the experts, manages to unmask any narcissist who is asked the question.
Narcissistic personality: easy or hard to detect?
If you want to identify a person with narcissistic traits you have three options. The first is to accompany this person to a mental health professional who can make a diagnosis about his personality. The second option is to learn how to administer the 40-item diagnostic tool of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory , and convince that person to respond to the test.
A study finds the key
Obviously these two options mentioned are a bit complicated for most mortals to carry out. Fortunately, there is a third option, which is also supported by several scientific studies just out of the oven.
Sara Konrath and her team from Indiana University in the United States have managed to develop a single-question diagnostic scale of narcissism . This is unusual, since scales are usually composed of large numbers of items. The scale that these academics have developed is the so-called Single-Item-Narcissism Scale (SINS).
When the news that Konrath and his collaborators had achieved a single-item scale hit the press, most academic and scientific circles were very sceptical about the possibility that the question in question “Are you a narcissist? could discriminate between those subjects with a clinically relevant propensity towards narcissism, and those who are not. Above all, this seemed unlikely considering that narcissism is a complex and multidimensional personality profile . Personally, my reaction when reading the headline in Psychology Today was to think: “Yet another yellowish article”.
This widespread scepticism towards the Indiana University study served to fuel several experiments aimed at disproving or verifying the results. Thus, Sander van der Linden decided to carry out another similar study, this time with a sample of 2,000 people, to try to shed some light on this issue.
The new study yielded very similar data and conclusions
To van der Linden’s surprise, his study (recently published in Journal of Personality and Individual Differences ) replicated the findings of the original study . The conclusions of this study were the following:
1. The single-question scale positively correlated with the 40-item NPI, which is much more complex in structure. In summary, both scales proved to correctly measure narcissism.
2 . An important point to note is that, while the scale based on the NPI model seems to confuse some cases of narcissism with normality or healthy self-esteem, the single-question scale reported no correlation with high self-esteem . In other words, the measure does not seem to fail, in the sense that it does not capture people who might have some subclinical features associated with narcissism, that is, mild cases. This is good news since with a simple question one can reasonably well discriminate against people with pronounced and unequivocal narcissism.
What is the typical response of a narcissistic person?
At this point where we know how the research was done and its proven reliability, I bet you are eager to know exactly what the expected response is from someone who exhibits narcissistic traits .
As we have seen, the question is much simpler than one might expect: “Are you a narcissist?” . This is the question you should ask. It may seem counter-intuitive, because it is certainly not often that we ask someone directly about their personality traits (as if that someone could not lie or have an unrealistic view of themselves!), but the case of narcissism is quite special.
Narcissists perceive narcissism as something… positive
Actually, narcissists do not consider narcissism to be a bad or reprehensible thing. In fact, they tend to be quite proud of it. A number of researches have detected that narcissists usually admit without any qualms that they behave in a narcissistic way , and do not feel any discomfort describing themselves as conceited, arrogant, etc. It even seems that they strive to be more narcissistic!
Narcissists also seem to be aware that others perceive them less positively than they do themselves, but this simply doesn’t matter to them.
The quintessential narcissistic response
As you can tell from the above, narcissistic people tend to answer ” yes” to question . In this way, they claim to be narcissistic people and inflate their ego at the same time.
Obviously, the answers do not always match the personality of the respondent. Participants can lie, for whatever reason. Moreover, a simple answer does not indicate either the degree of narcissism or the “type”. In other words, an affirmative answer may be a clear statistical indication that we are dealing with a case of narcissism, but it does not give us any more information about it .
You can’t have it all: a simple question almost never provides a true, complete and nuanced answer.
In short, these studies have made it possible to determine that the SINS scale question does not provide detailed data on the personality profile of the respondent, but does reasonably well measure the presence or absence of narcissism .
From now on, when you want to know if someone in your environment is or is not a narcissist, you can try asking the question: “Are you a narcissist?