That's what a team of researchers did recently -- literally. In an attempt to better understand narcissism and narcissists, researchers presented 2,200 people with the following statement: "I am a narcissist." Participants were then asked to what extent they agreed with the statement. They were reminded the word means "egotistical, self-focused, and vain."
Respondents were asked to rate their agreement on a scale of one (not very true of me) to seven (very true of me). Researchers dubbed it the Single Item Narcissism Scale (SINS).
What they found was quite interesting, if not very logical. Most narcissists admitted to being narcissists -- six out of every seven, to be exact.
Researchers knew who was and wasn't a narcissist -- as defined by modern psychologists -- by also giving all the study's participants a separate test, a popular personality survey called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory. But whereas the original survey featured only one question, the NPI has 40.
"People who are willing to admit they are more narcissistic than others probably actually are more narcissistic," explained Brad Bushman, co-author of the new study and a professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State.
"People who are narcissists are almost proud of the fact," added Bushman. "You can ask them directly because they don't see narcissism as a negative quality -- they believe they are superior to other people and are fine with saying that publicly."
Bushman's work was aided by Sara Konrath, a researcher at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and Brian Meier of Gettysburg College. Their work was featured in the most recent issue of the journal PLOS ONE.
"We don't think SINS is a replacement for other narcissism inventories in all situations, but it has a time and place," Busman said -- like when scientists need to save time.