August 6, 2014

How can you be fairly certain whether your self-absorbed friend is a narcissist? According to science, all you have do is ask them.

A new study published in the journal PLOS ONE found that simply asking, "Are you a narcissist?" was nearly as effective in diagnosing people as the longer, more time-consuming, traditional method, which involves a 40-question test — "hardly something you can administer on a first date to find out if you're getting mixed up with a charming louse before you accept a second date," said Jeffrey Kluger at Time.

Researchers used what they call the Single Item Narcissism Scale (SINS). They asked subjects: "To what extent do you agree with this statement: 'I am a narcissist.' (Note: The word 'narcissist' means egotistical, self-focused, and vain.)" and asked them to rate their feelings on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 meaning "Not very true of me" and 7 meaning "Very true of me." The researchers found that the SINS is "significantly correlated with longer narcissism scales."

To cover all their bases, the researchers went further, testing other personality traits related to narcissism to see if they, too, lined up with what they found on the simple SINS test — and indeed, they did. Why, though, do narcissists so readily out themselves? Kluger offers some good insight:

The reason narcissists are so honest — a lot more honest than you'd be if someone asked you, say, "Are you a sociopath?" — is because they just don't think their narcissism is a problem, which is perfectly consistent with people who think so highly of themselves. [Time]

Many narcissists do, in fact, have many things to be proud about. "If you're trying to think of a group of people who are low in depression and anxiety, high in creativity and accomplishment, that's narcissists," psychologist Sara Konrath told Kluger. Still, as anyone who's spent some time with a true narcissist knows, this high confidence can do real damage to other people. At least, if you ask them first, you'll know what you're getting into. Samantha Rollins

Foreign affairs
8:21 p.m. ET
Feng Li/Getty Images

The Chinese government is investing in a program called the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a $46 billion project that will do everything from upgrade railways to build power plants in Pakistan.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is in Pakistan for his first state visit, and during a ceremony in Islamabad on Monday, Xi and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif performed a remote groundbreaking via video on five projects, including a $1.4 billion dam near Islamabad. "Friendship with China is the cornerstone of Pakistan's foreign policy," Sharif said. "Today, we have planned for the future."

Chinese companies will tackle the work, The Wall Street Journal reports, and it will be financed through Chinese investment or loans. The proposed corridor will link the northwestern Chinese province of Xinjiang with the Pakistani port of Gwadar through a system of roads, and will create important power-generation plants to combat Pakistan's frequent electricity shortages. Most of the $28 billion in advance projects are expected to be finished by 2018, with the rest by 2030. Catherine Garcia

crisis in yemen
7:31 p.m. ET
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Pentagon officials on Monday said that the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt has been moved off the coast of Yemen in the event that it needs to intercept shipments of Iranian arms to Houthi rebels in the chaos-filled country.

The carrier had been in the Persian Gulf, a spokesman said, and two Defense officials told USA Today that the Roosevelt also was tracking a convoy of Iranian ships on their way to the Gulf of Aden. Now that the Roosevelt is in place, there are nine warships in Yemen, a Navy official said, with the Roosevelt "significantly" adding to the amount of firepower. Catherine Garcia

6:48 p.m. ET

Iran is charging The Washington Post's Tehran bureau chief, Jason Rezaian, with espionage, "collaborating with hostile governments," and "propaganda against the establishment," his lawyer said.

Rezaian was arrested nine months ago, and his attorney, Leila Ahsan, said this is the first time the exact charges against him have been provided. The indictment says that Rezaian gathered information "about internal and foreign policy" and then gave it to "individuals with hostile intent." The Post's executive editor, Martin Baron, calls the charges "scurrilous" and called for Rezaian to be exonerated.

Ahsan met with Rezaian for 90 minutes on Monday, and it was the first time he had been able to consult with a lawyer since his arrest in July. The Revolutionary Court has not made the charges public, and Ahsan said in a statement that "all of the items and accusations are the ones that I mentioned and I cannot divulge details because the trial has not yet begun." She added that the case file has no evidence to justify the charges, and they stem from his work. "Jason is a journalist, and it is in the nature of his profession to gain access to information and publish them," she said. "My client, however, has never had any direct or indirect access to classified information to share with anyone." Catherine Garcia

whale watchers
5:18 p.m. ET

On Monday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration proposed lifting protections on most humpback whales, as the species' population has rebounded after 45 years of restoration efforts. Following the ban of commercial whaling in the '60s, the mammals were listed as endangered in 1970. Now, the NOAA wants to reclassify the whales into 14 different species and remove 10 from the endangered list.

Though some experts think the move might be premature because the species will become vulnerable as oceans respond to climate change, they agree that the population growth demonstrates the efficiency of the Endangered Species Act.

If the proposal passes, it will be the first time in over two decades that the agency delisted a species due to recovery. Stephanie Talmadge

5:12 p.m. ET
Darren Hauck/Getty Images

High-profile conservative donors Charles and David Koch told guests at a fundraising event Monday that they have their eye on one particular candidate for the Republican presidential nomination: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

"We will support whoever the candidate is,” David Koch reportedly said, according to two people who attended the event. "But it should be Scott Walker." Support from the Kochs is crucial — to the point that the pair may well be kingmakers. The two brothers announced earlier this year that their vast network of super PACs and nonprofits plans to spend nearly $900 million on the 2016 campaign. Samantha Rollins

4:44 p.m. ET
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton brushed off critics riled up by the impending release of Clinton Cash, Peter Schweizer's book about the Clinton Foundation's controversial fundraising choices, saying that running a campaign inevitably leads to "distractions and attacks."

"It's worth noting that Republicans seem to only be talking about me," she told reporters at a New Hampshire furniture factory. "I don't know what they'd talk about if I weren't in the race."

Still, the only declared Democrat in the 2016 race so far said she is ready for the scrutiny, though she would prefer to focus on spending time speaking directly with voters. Samantha Rollins

3:30 p.m. ET

Anthony Doerr on Monday was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for All the Light We Cannot See, a historical novel set in occupied France. Other winners included Elizabeth Kolbert for The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History in the category of general non-fiction.

In the field of journalism, Carol Leonnig of The Washington Post won the prize for national reporting for her coverage of the Secret Service's many lapses, while Eric Lipton of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal staff shared the prize for investigative reporting.

Read the full list of winners here. Ryu Spaeth

See More Speed Reads