Three Sneaky (And One Direct) Ways To Identify Narcissism

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Learn some red flag traits of a narcissist

How can you tell if someone is a narcissist or not? It’s a popular topic on search engines and there are definite personality traits that can identify narcissism in an individual. Recently, however, some psychology studies have suggested some less obvious ways to detect narcissism, at least in the general  population.

When looking for narcissistic traits, what sneaky methods can psychology use? And what is the best question to ask?

1. Ask Him For His Birthday

Millennial Hipster and Narcissist?

The generation born between  the early 1980s and 2000 is regarded as the most narcissistic generation yet, according to a study by Case Western Reserve University. While millennials themselves accept that their generation is more narcissistic than earlier ones, they don’t believe that they are as narcissistic as older generations do.

“Millennials and older generations agree that millennials are the most narcissistic. They just disagree to the extent of the narcissism.” – Joshua Grubbs, Doctoral candidate at Case Western Reserve University

Millennials are widely portrayed as self-centred and this may be leading to a stereotyping of them. But many of the generation who gave us the selfie would argue that theirs is a generation which values individualism highly and it’s this that is being misdiagnosed as self-involvement and vanity.

As part of the research, the subjects took personality tests to determine if they were narcissistic. Or at least that’s what they thought. In fact everyone was told that the results showed that they were a narcissist. The millennials were the most upset at hearing the fake results.

Millennials - narcissists or individuals?Click To Tweet

So are all millennials narcissists? No. The amount of narcissists in any generation is small. However, millennials are probably a bit more self-absorbed than generations that went before them. Interestingly, they are also the most likely to object to being labelled with narcissism.

“This research doesn’t mean every single millennial is narcissistic. But on the whole, people of my generation probably are more narcissistic than in past generations.” – Grubbs

2. Observe Her Social Media Habits


Narcissists tend to be pretty easy to spot on social media. A University of Georgia study found that even untrained people were pretty good at spotting a narcissist from their Facebook account. Narcissists tended to have higher number of Facebook friends and tended to have more glamorous profile pictures. In fact much of the Facebook account tends to be used largely for self-promotion.

“We found that people who are narcissistic use Facebook in a self-promoting way that can be identified by others.” –  lead author Laura Buffardi

Are narcissists more aggressive & less social on social media?Click To Tweet

Another study looked at over 1,000 Twitter accounts to identify narcissistic tweeting behaviour. The subjects underwent a narcissist test and allowed the researchers to access their twitter accounts. The study found that narcissists were more likely to use attention seeking methods when sending out tweets. The use of swearing, negative and anti-social words were more common for narcissists.

“On every word category we considered, we found narcissistic users to be more negative, aggressive, and less socially engaged.” – Jennifer Golbeck, University of Maryland

3. Ask About His Favourite TV Shows


Do you like watching reality TV ? So do narcissistic people. You may have already seen that headline.

However the original study by Ohio State University suggests that it’s not just reality TV that correlates with narcissism. It’s a lot more besides. People with narcissistic traits tend to like political talk shows, reality TV shows, sports and suspense/thriller/horror shows. In fact daily TV watching in general correlates with narcissism.

The news appears to be the only type of TV show that narcissists don’t like much.

Is TV making us narcissistic ?Click To Tweet

The study speculates that a lot of television is narcissistic in nature. We are all exposed to content that features  “rampant self-interest, disregard of others’ well-being, and a focus on the individual above all else, which are all components of narcissism.”

So, can narcissistic television shows cultivate narcissistic traits in TV viewers? Perhaps, but more research needs to be done. The study itself suggests that it may be but as yet there is no evidence of causation.

4. Ask Her If She Is A Narcissist!

If you are really trying to find out if someone is narcissistic, then ignore everything that came before this.

There are a few tests that psychologists use to test for narcissism. One popular test, the Narcissistic Personality Inventory includes 40 questions. Interestingly, it seems to have 39 questions more than it needs!

That’s according to a study by Ohio State University. It conducted 11 experiments which involved over 2,000 people. It found that you only really need one question. People were asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 7 how much they agreed with the statement ‘ “I am a narcissist.” (Note: The word “narcissist” means egotistical, self-focused, and vain.)‘  People who agreed with the statement really did tend to be narcissistic.

“People who are narcissists are almost proud of the fact. You can ask them directly because they don’t see narcissism as a negative quality” – co-author Brad Bushman

Narcissists appear to be proud of their vanityClick To Tweet

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The studies above raise an interesting question; is society in general becoming more narcissistic? Is a saturation of TV and social media fostering a heightened sense of vanity in all of us? What do think? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading! If you like this post then please share and comment below but play nice! Abusive comments may be removed.


  • Newswise – Millennials admit to being narcissists but don’t you dare call them that
  • First Monday – Negativity and anti-social attention seeking among narcissists on Twitter: A linguistic analysis
  • EurekAlert! – Study: Facebook profiles can be used to detect narcissism
  • Academia – Does Television Cultivate Narcissism? Relationships Between Television Exposure, Preferences for Specific Genres, and Subclinical Narcissism
  • EurekAlert! – Just one simple question can identify narcissistic people

What are red flags for narcissistic traits? Psychology has identified some unusual ones. Can these help to determine if someone is a narcissist or not?
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