Ohio scientists believe they have found a way to determine which people are narcissists.
And the best thing is, the ‘tool’ is just a simple question.
Following 11 experiments with over 2,200 participants of all age groups, the researchers discovered they could accurately pinpoint narcissists by asking them the following 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.)
People rated themselves on a scale of 1 to 7.
Тhe test, which researchers call the Single Item Narcissism Scale (SINS) showed that people’s answer to this question came in line with a number of other validated measures of narcissism, which include the well-known Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI).
The difference is that the SINS has one question while the NPI contains 40 questions.
“People who are willing to admit they are more narcissistic than others probably actually are more narcissistic,” said Brad Bushman, professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University and co-author of the research.
“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.”
Bushman made the research in partnership with Sara Konrath from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and Brian Meier from Gettysburg College.
The findings have since been made available in the PLOS ONE journal.
“Understanding narcissism has many implications for society that extend beyond the impact on the individual narcissist’s life,” Konrath said.
“For example, narcissistic people have low empathy, and empathy is one key motivator of philanthropic behavior such as donating money or time to organizations.”
“Overall, narcissism is problematic for both individuals and society. Those who think they are already great don’t try to improve themselves,” said Bushman.
“And narcissism is bad for society because people who are only thinking of themselves and their own interests are less helpful to others.”
Bushman noted that the one (SINS) question should not be seen as a substitute for the longer questionaries as other factors could give further information to researchers, such as what type of a narcissist a person is.
“But our single-item scale can be useful for long surveys in which researchers are concerned about people getting fatigued or distracted while answering questions and possibly even dropping out before they are done,” he said.
He stressed that if 20 seconds are needed for answering the one question, it would take a person 13.3 minutes to answer the 40 NPI questions.
“That is a big difference if you’re doing a study in which participants have to complete several different survey instruments and answer a long list of other questions,” Bushman said.
The 11 experiments took varied approaches in order to determine the accuracy of SINS.
Some of them used under-grad students, while others had online panels of American adults.
One of the SINS experiments found that it was positively related to all seven subscales of the NPI which take various components of narcissism into account. These include exhibitionism, vanity, self-sufficiency, superiority, entitlement, exploitativeness, and authority.
Another research found that subjects tended to have similar SINS scores when tested 11 days apart.
One research replicated previous work that showed participants getting high scores in narcissism were more prone to take part in risky sexual relations and had a hard time being committed in long-term relationships.
“People who scored higher on narcissism on the SINS had both positive and negative outcomes,” Bushman said.
The group reported feeling more positive, less depressed, and more extraverted.
However, they also reported more anger, shame, guilt, fear, and less agreeableness. Furthermore, those who scored higher on SINS showed negative personal outcomes. These include having less prosocial behavior when they felt a sense of threat to their ego and having low-quality relationships with other people.
“The advantage of SINS compared to other measures,” Bushman said, “is that it allows researchers to identify narcissists very easily.”
“We don’t think SINS is a replacement for other narcissism inventories in all situations, but it has a time and place,” he added.
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