Are you a narcissist? If you answered "yes," then you probably are, at least according to a new study done by researchers at Ohio State University.
The word for narcissism comes from Greek mythology: Narcissus was an infamous hunter who was known for his startling beauty and the fact that he was in love with himself. The goddess Nemesis, wanting to teach him a lesson, brought him to a pool, where he became enamored with his own reflection. Unable to turn away, he died there.
Today, narcissism is a personality disorder derived from extreme vanity and egotism. Narcissists have trouble with empathy, sustaining healthy relationships, hypersensitivity to criticism and an inability to view the world from a perspective other than their own. Although narcissism exists in almost everyone at low levels, those with high levels of the disorder have more extreme negative personality traits.
So how can we identify narcissists? Researchers discovered that the easiest way is just by asking people a simple question:
"To what extent do you agree with this statement: 'I am a narcissist.' (Note: The word 'narcissist' means egotistical, self-focused, and vain.)"
In the Ohio State University study, researchers asked participants this question and then told them to rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 7, 1 being not narcissistic at all and 7 being extremely narcissistic.
The results of 11 studies with over 2,200 participants, showed responses similar to those received with a 40-question test called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory.
"People who are narcissists are almost proud of the fact," says study co-author Brad Bushman. "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."
Narcissism creates problems for society as a whole because those who suffer from it have less empathy than their peers, which means they don't donate time or money to charitable causes. Narcissists do tend to do better in the corporate world though, with studies scarily showing that narcissistic CEOs have the highest salaries.
Of course, this one question doesn't replace other tests for those who suffer from an extreme narcissistic disorder. It doesn't answer questions about what type of narcissism someone has, but it offers a faster way to diagnose the disorder before ordering other tests.
For those of us that aren't psychologists, though, this question could help choose a partner.
"Narcissists are very bad relationship partners and they are bad team players," says Bushman. "It might be nice to find out how much of a narcissist someone is."