While it might not be surprising to learn that narcissists think highly of themselves, a recent study has found that they constantly do this in three key areas: emotional intelligence, attractiveness, and social skills.
A study from the Department of Clinical Psychological Science at Maastricht University was published last year, in the journal Personality and Mental Health, which discussed narcissistic overestimation.
Eighty-five participants were asked to complete 6 tasks, in order to determine their level of EI (emotional intelligence).
They were first assessed for their IQ (intelligence quotient), then they were asked to complete a “reading the eyes in the mind” test (RME) which measures a person’s ability to understand others’ emotional states. Participants were also asked to complete tasks that evaluated first impressions, attractiveness, social skills, and learning ability.
To get a comprehensive understanding of the difference between the results of the assessments, and what the participants perceived of themselves, they were asked to estimate their performance before completing any tasks.
The following order was used for each individual test: “(1) the upcoming test was explained to the participants; (2) their predictions were estimated; (3) the objective test took place; and (4) participants rated their postdictions.”
At the end of the testing, participants were assessed for narcissistic personality traits.
The results of the study showed a link to narcissistic traits and an overestimation of emotional intelligence, attractiveness and social skills- particularly before a task was even performed.
Are Narcissists really more intelligent, or are they merely pretending?
Thanks to Hollywood, the general population tends to believe in the “evil genius” stereotype, but that isn’t actually how most sociopaths operate. Statistical analysis of results from Heinzen and colleagues (2011) found that while psychopaths had a significantly lower IQ than the control group, sociopaths (which is where narcissistic personality disorder falls) had slightly lower IQ than the control. The difference in IQ between the latter was too small to be considered significant. The researchers went on to conclude that “both interpersonal (sociopaths, narcissists) and behavioral psychopathy (violence, emotional outbursts) are associated with lower IQ.” However, this association is notably more predominant in behavioral psychopathy than in the interpersonal type.
Another study from the University of Richmond conducted an analysis of the relation between general mental ability (GMA) and narcissistic personality traits to determine “if individuals who display socially exploitative social qualities tend to be more intelligent or less intelligent.”
The study reports, “Across 48 independent samples, GMA showed no consistent relation with any DT trait. These effects were not sufficient to support either the “evil genius” hypothesis (highly intelligent individuals tend to display socially exploitative personality traits) or the “compensatory” hypothesis (less intelligent individuals compensate for their cognitive disadvantages by adopting manipulative behavioral tendencies).”
Essentially, “the warped self-perceptions of narcissists are vulnerable to biases resulting in dishonest self-reports.”
So why do they feel the need to overestimate their intelligence?
Marcin Zajenkowski, and Anna Z. Czarna from the University of Warsaw, Poland, found that the need for narcissists to inflate their levels of intelligence, emotional intelligence, and social skills occurs as a way for them to reach happiness. According to their study, the well-being of the narcissist depends on their ego being satisfied.
“The results of our three studies consistently confirmed the positive link between narcissism and SAI (subjectively assessed intelligence). Moreover, we demonstrated that this relationship was independent of actual abilities, which is consistent with previous findings in this area (Gabriel et al., 1994; Paulhus & Williams, 2002). In line with existing literature, we also found evidence that satisfying ego needs in this domain was a necessary precondition for narcissists’ well-being (Dufner et al., 2012; Sedikides et al., 2004).”
What we can learn from these studies, is that no, narcissists are not more intelligent, nor are they less intelligent than anyone else with normal cognitive functions. They simply manipulate themselves (and their perceptions of themselves) as much as they manipulate others.
By Raven Fon