Narcissism is often super easy to detect when meeting a new person or something you discover too late in the game. But scientists who have been studying the hard-to-diagnose personality disorder have found an interesting new way to identify a narcissist and its a method that anyone can use. According to researchers from Ohio State University, simply asking people will get you the accurate response and 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 the Ohio State University, in a university press release. “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.”
The study — which was published in the journal PLOS ONE — entailed 11 sets of experiments with over 2,000 subjects of all ages and backgrounds. When the researchers asked their subjects whether they identify as narcissistic or not on a scale of 1 (not) to 7 (very), their answers were very similar to other measures of narcissism, including the Narcissistic Personality Inventory.
The findings of this study, and understanding narcissism, is crucial for society, according to study co-author Sara Konrath of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “For example, narcissistic people have low empathy, and empathy is one key motivator of philanthropic behavior such as donating money or time to organizations,” explained Konrath.
The word, in itself, is derived from Greek mythology, as legend has it that Narcissus was the name of a handsome young Greek man who rejected the advances of nymph Echo. His punishment for rejecting Echo was falling in love with his own reflection in a pool of water, and naturally, was unable to consummate his affections. He is believed to have morphed into a flower, which is called narcissus.
From a psychological standpoint, narcissism is categorized as a personality disorder that is formally called Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD.) According to psychologist Sigmund Freud, narcissism is an innate part of human psychology and is within us from birth. Supporting his theory is the implementation of narcissism in evolutionary psychology, which suggests that narcissism and assortative mating are hand-in-hand.
In fact, the “self seeking like” hypothesis in psychology suggests that people unconsciously seek out partners who look like themselves. Supporting this hypothesis are the findings of recent studies that have discovered that people do prefer partners that share similar facial resemblances. What’s more, researchers from the University of St Andrews, who published their findings in scientific journal Behavioural Ecology, found that heterosexual women preferred mates who looked like them.
“Previous research has often found that women can be attracted to masculine men, but also a bit suspicious of them,” said lead author Tamsin Saxton in a university press statement. “However, women tend to trust men more if they look like them. So perhaps the resemblance cancelled out the women’s suspicions. Or maybe the women felt they were better matched with men who looked like them, because if two people resemble each other, they might both be attracted to each other.”
While mild forms of narcissism and even “self seeking like” qualities are not detrimental to society, extreme narcissism like Narcissistic Personality Disorder can be problematic to say the least.
“Overall, narcissism is problematic for both individuals and society. Those who think they are already great don’t try to improve themselves,” concludes Bushman. “And narcissism is bad for society because people who are only thinking of themselves and their own interests are less helpful to others.”