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How to detect a narcissist ... with a simple question

How to detect a narcissist ... with a simple question

July 19, 2024

It is possible that, at some point in your life, you have asked yourself if that friend, relative, acquaintance or co-worker is a narcissistic . It is understandable: many behaviors can be associated with this category of personality, although it is difficult to know to what extent these constitute a real problem. In a previous article I already spoke about the Narcissistic Personality Disorder and about 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 narcissistic person to whom the question is asked.

Narcissistic personality: easy or difficult to detect?

If you want to identify a person with narcissistic features 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 40 item diagnostic tool of the Inventory of the Narcissistic Personality, and convince that person to answer the test.

A study gives the key

Obviously these two options mentioned are a bit complicated to carry out for most mortals. Fortunately, there is a third option, which also has the support of several scientific studies just out of the oven.

Sara Konrath and her team from the University of Indiana, in the United States, have managed to develop a diagnostic scale of narcissism of a single question . This is not usual, since scales usually consist of large numbers of items. The scale that these academics have developed is the call Single-Item-Narcissism Scale (SINS).

Reasonable skepticism

When the news that Konrath and his collaborators had achieved a single item scale jumped to the press, most academic and scientific circles were very skeptical that the question in question "Are you a narcissist?" could discriminate between those subjects with a clinically relevant propensity toward narcissism, and those who did not. Especially, this seemed unlikely considering that narcissism is a complex and multidimensional personality profile . Personally, my reaction to reading the headline in Psychology Today was to think: "Another more sensationalist article".

This generalized skepticism toward the study of the University of Indiana served to encourage several experiments that sought to deny or verify 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 bring some light to this issue.

The new study yielded very similar data and conclusions

To the surprise of van der Linden himself, his studio (recently published in Journal of Personality and Individual Differencesreplicated the findings of the original study . The conclusions of the same were the following:

1. The scale of a single question correlated positively with the 40-item NPI, with a much more complex structure. In summary, both scales proved to correctly measure narcissism.

2 . An important issue 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 scale of a single question did not report any 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 may have some subclinical traits associated with narcissism, that is, mild cases. This is good news because with a simple question you can discriminate reasonably well with people with a pronounced and unambiguous narcissism.

What is the typical response of a narcissistic person?

At this point where we know how the investigations were made and their proven reliability, I bet you want to know exactly what is expected from someone with narcissistic features .

As we have seen, the question is much simpler than you would expect: "Are you a narcissist?". This is the question you should ask. It may seem counterintuitive, because it is certainly not very 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 truth is that the The case of narcissism is quite special.

Narcissists perceive narcissism as something ... positive

Actually, narcissists do not consider narcissism to be something bad or reprehensible. In fact, they tend to be quite proud of it. A good number of investigations have detected that narcissists often admit without qualms that they behave in a narcissistic way , and they do not feel any discomfort describing themselves as conceited, arrogant, etc. They even seem to strive to be more narcissistic!

It also seems that narcissists are aware that others perceive them less positively compared to how they see themselves, but this simply does not matter to them.

The narcissistic response par excellence

As you can deduce from all the above, Narcissistic people tend to respond "yes" To the question . In this way, they claim themselves as narcissistic people and inflate their ego at the same time.


Obviously, the answers do not always coincide with the personality of the respondent. Participants can lie, for any reason. In addition, a simple answer does not indicate neither the degree of narcissism nor the "type". That is, an affirmative answer can be a clear statistical indication that we are dealing with a case of narcissism, but he does not give us more information about it .

You can not have everything: with a simple question you almost never get a real answer, complete and full of nuances.


Ultimately, these studies have made it possible to determine that the question on the SINS scale does not provide us with detailed data on the personality profile of the respondent, but it 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 narcissistic, you can try asking the question: "Are you a narcissist?".

How to Spot a Narcissist in 3 Minutes or Less: Try This Simple Research-Based Narcissist Test (July 2024).

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