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.