Study: Narcissists Only Think They’re Especially Creative

Narcissistic people do undertake more creative things, but their correlation with self-reported creativity is disproportionately strong.
(slgckgc/flickr)

Problem: Most any sort of creative work ultimately involves a certain amount of narcissism, unless you immediately lock it in a drawer upon completion and never show it to another living soul or speak a word about it ever. Producing things for consumption means you think you made something worthy of being consumed. (Not that you shouldn’t think that; confidence, believe in yourself, etc.)

But the question that researchers are looking at in a recent study published in Thinking Skills and Creativity is whether that works in reverse—are narcissistic people naturally more creative?

Methodology: A diverse group of 207 people took an assessment about what creative activities, such as choreographic a dance or writing a poem, they’d done in the past year. They also self-reported how creative they thought they were compared to others.

Then researchers assessed where the participants ranked on the “Big Five” personality traits—neuroticism, extraversion, openness-to-experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness—as well as obsessive-compulsiveness and narcissism.

Results: Narcissism was correlated with doing creative things (no word on the quality of those creative endeavors, however), but it was more strongly correlated with self-reported creativity, which feels somehow pretty spiritually satisfying.

Also interesting was that obsessive compulsive tendencies were significantly positively correlated with creative activities, but not with believing they were more creative. Other personality traits that seemed to predict creativity were openness and extraversion.

Implications: Narcissists did tend to embark on creative projects but perhaps they were just writing poems and songs and what have you because they already believed so strongly in their creativity. And the nice thing is, even if those creative endeavors are not well-received, the pillowy cocoon of their self-love will keep them warm in its embrace.


The study, "Creativity, OCD, Narcissism and the Big Five," was published in Thinking Skills and Creativity.

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Julie Beck is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Health Channel.

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