Can You Spot a Narcissist?

Narcissism is a personality trait that can simply be described as excessive self love. The word itself comes from the story of Narcissus, who in Greek mythology, was known for his beauty and falling completely in love with himself. His overbearing self love led to his demise, which was caused by an obsession with his reflection in a pool of water, and being unable to stop looking at his own image.

Narcissus — infatuated by his reflection

In modern day society, narcissism has become an epidemic. It is accompanied by a grandiose sense of self importance. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) can be accompanied by several symptoms.

There are different ways to test one for NPD, with the NPI (Narcissistic Personality Inventory) being used most frequently. The NPI was developed by Raskin and Hall (1979) for the measurement of narcissism as a personality trait in social psychological research. It is based on the definition of narcissistic personality disorder found in the DSM-III. The test consists of forty pairs of statements. For each pair, one is encouraged to select the answer that they feel best reflects and suits their personality. In most cases, it takes five to ten minutes to be completed.

An example of a question could be as follows:

(1) a) I am assertive, or the opposite, b) I wish I were more assertive

Evidently, the more “narcissistic” answer would be the former.

A psychologist can also do a clinical interview assessment of narcissism, in which they will ask about nine different symptoms of narcissism, and if a patient presents at least five of the symptoms, the doctor can make the diagnosis.

A reoccurring problem is that different psychologists’ personality diagnoses can vary significantly. For example, one psychologist may diagnose a patient with one disorder, while another may diagnose that same patient with something different. Furthermore, although self-report measures are less costly, and can be easily administered to large samples, using this measure as a means collecting data is not always reliable or valid. Several problems can arise. Firstly, it is hard for participants to be introspective — they may lack the ability to accurately respond to a question. Secondly, participants can vary regarding the way they interpret questions or statements. Thirdly, researchers using self-report measures have to rely on the honestly of their participants. Lastly, the rating scale used can be a problem. It is likely that a participant can choose the more desirable answer when choosing between statements on the NPI, instead of choosing the statement that best describes him or herself.

Many people believe that we are becoming a more narcissistic nation. We can look at narcissism as occurring in different forms or stages. For example, an obsession with your own appearance could in fact be the sole motivator behind one leading a healthy lifestyle (eating healthy, working out). On the other hand, there are also maladaptive cues that we should be aware of that will help us avoid eventually becoming the person who can’t stop staring at their reflection.


Raskin, R.; Terry, H. (1988). “A principal-components analysis of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory and further evidence of its construct validity”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 54(5), 890–902.

Student ID: 260554866

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