We Asked an Expert If This Obvious Way to Identify a Narcissist Is Legit

October 28th 2016

Almie Rose

Have you ever suspected that someone is an actual, literal narcissist?

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is rare; only 0.5-1% of the general population has it, according to Dr. Sam Vaknin of Healthy Place.

In the past, identifying a narcissist required checking off a long list of criteria as laid out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) from the American Psychiatric Association (via Mayo Clinic):

— "Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance"
— "Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it"
— "Exaggerating your achievements and talents"
— "Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate"
— "Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people"
— "Requiring constant admiration"
— "Having a sense of entitlement"

...and the list goes on, but you get the idea.

So a narcissist isn't just someone who takes multiple selfies in one day. It's more like someone who takes multiple selfies in one day, posts all of them on every social media channel, emails them to everyone they know with the subject "BEST PHOTO EVER SRSLY PLZ LOOK" and tells everyone that their selfies are going to be in a museum because there is a demand for them, which you couldn't possibly understand.

In years past, scientists would provide a 40 question survey called the "Narcissistic Personality Inventory" to find such narcissists, according to this video from New York Magazine's "The Science of Us" — but now, the magazine reports there is a much simpler way.

All you have to do is ask one pretty obvious question.

Here's the one question to ask a narcissist to spot one

According to The Science of Us, the question to ask a suspected narcissist is, "to what extent do you agree with this statement: I am a narcissist?"

Or, in other words: "hey, are you a narcissist?"

No way it can really be that simple...can it?

I had my doubts, so I emailed W. Keith Campbell, Ph.D., an expert on narcissism who's written three books on the topic. "In confidential testing situations this one item scale does a pretty good job at identifying narcissism," he wrote, "although it gets a little more of a vulnerable form than some other measures."

"That does not necessarily mean it will work if you ask someone publicly or, say, in a job interview," Dr. Campbell clarifies.

So don't try to use this technique to pinpoint possible narcissists when you're hiring, or on a first date. It seems to work if there's some sort of protection involved, like anonymity or some way to ensure the potential narcissist won't have anything to lose if they're being honest.

You can watch New York Magazine's "The Science of Us" video "1 Question That Reveals a Narcissist" below.

[h/t New York Magazine]