Narcissists overestimate their emotional intelligence, attractiveness and social skills

According to a recent study published in Personality and Mental Health, narcissists consistently overestimated their emotional intelligence. However, these overestimations of assessments were not linked to feelings of grandiosity, a hallmark trait of narcissism.

Grandiosity is an unrealistic sense of superiority. Past studies have shown that that narcissism is related to overestimation of IQ (compared to actual IQ results), and to overestimating performance, leadership and attractiveness (compared to peer ranking). However, it is hard to apply these results to other people in different settings, as these studies have several aspects that are difficult to account for in a real life setting. These include less-than-optimal objective criteria, a lack of control for gender, focus only a specific performance, and inconsistent ways of comparing the participant estimation and the actual test results.

While the relationship between narcissism and intellectual intelligence has been studied, albeit with some issues, the relationship between narcissism and emotional intelligence has not yet been studied. The current study tested whether narcissistic traits are related to overestimation of a range of emotional intelligence tasks.

Eighty-five participants completed six tasks to assess their level of emotional intelligence. First, participants were assessed for their emotional intelligence. The tasks went in this order: intelligence quotient (IQ), reading the mind in the eye test (RME, a task about putting themselves in another person’s mind), first impression, attractiveness, social skills, and learning performance. Before and after each task, participants were asked to estimate their performance.

Researchers were mainly interested in the difference between the estimated scores by the participants and the objective scores of the tests. For each test, the following order was used: “(1) the upcoming test was explained to the participants; (2) their predictions were estimated; (3) the objective test took place; and (4) participants rated their postdictions.” The tests were given in the following order: first impression, social skills, attractiveness, RME, learning performance, and IQ. Finally, participants were assessed for narcissism,

Researchers found that narcissistic traits were related to overestimation of emotional intelligence, attractiveness and social skills, especially before performing a task. Healthy narcissism was related to overestimation of most assessments: IQ, RME, attractiveness, and social skills. Healthy narcissism was also related to positive self-ratings on these performances. This indicates that narcissistic overestimation could be due to a structural overconfidence.

In contrast to the other assessments, narcissism seemed to have no relationship to first impression and learning performance. It could be possible that narcissism is not a predictor of overestimation for these tests. Some limitations of the study were the similar participants. Most were university students of Dutch nationality.

However, the overall findings of the study did not suggest there are possible objective indicators of feelings of grandiosity. While no link was confirmed, this study does have its uses. One of the major issues with narcissism is the lack of self-insight. In a clinical setting, having narcissists use objective tests similar to those of this study could help reduce inflated self-esteem. Future research should assess how well this treatment works with narcissists.