Image control and a single question: Will narcissists tell you they are narcissists?

I read the story. I shook my head. Then I nodded. Then I shook my head again.

If you ask, will a narcissist tell you he or she is a narcissist?

According to a new article in the journal PLOS ONE titled Development and Validation of the Single Item Narcissism Scale (SINS) that is comprised of eleven studies, the authors conclude that narcissists, when specifically asked the question, “Are you a narcissist” will tell you they are narcissists. However, the researchers also conclude that:

“A number of longer measures currently exist to assess narcissism, and many of them are have high reliability and validity.Thus, we believe that this single item measure should only be used when it would be difficult or impossible to include a longer narcissism scale.”

The researchers do say that there were limitations to the study.

“We note, however, that our scale is more face valid than longer narcissism scales, and therefore, impression management concerns could potentially play a larger role. Indeed, we found that people who score high in social desirability have lower scores on the SINS, suggesting that those who worry about pleasing others are less likely to agree that they are narcissistic.”

That last sentence, to me (bold type) says a lot. Image control is a huge part of the narcissistic personality matrix. In which case, a narcissist might reveal they are a narcissist if they sense they will receive approval. Perhaps if they don’t sense the possibility for approval, the answer might be otherwise. And what about shy narcissists? It’s hard to image them bragging about being narcissists.

And as the researchers conclude:

“Researchers who are interested in detecting fine differences in narcissism levels should also use a longer measure.”