People can identify narcissists just from looking at their faces, psychologists have discovered.
In fact, the eyebrows alone can reveal narcissistic traits in people, new research reveals.
Grandiose narcissists have thicker and denser eyebrows and people automatically pick up on this cue.
Across a series of studies, hundreds of participants were asked to look at pictures of people with varying degrees of narcissism.
Grandiose narcissists tend to strongly agree with statements like “If I ruled the world it would be a better place,” and “I like to show off my body.”
What they found was curious: when the eyebrows were deleted from people’s pictures, participants could not spot the narcissists.
Next, participants were shown just people’s eyebrows.
This did the trick, suggesting the eyebrow contains particularly salient information about narcissists.
The study’s authors write:
“…people can accurately identify narcissism from facial features, even as little as a single eyebrow.
Moreover, although perceivers considered eyebrow femininity, grooming, and distinctiveness when judging narcissism, only the last of these related to their accuracy.
Grandiose narcissists thus seem to have more distinct eyebrows (e.g., thicker and denser), explaining how participants arrived at their accurate narcissism judgments.”
In a subsequent study, the researchers were able to make people look more or less narcissistic by manipulating their eyebrows.
The authors conclude:
“The ability to identify dark personality traits at zero-acquaintance provides particular value for avoiding exploitation and manipulation.
The increasing incidence of narcissism underscores this value.
Fortunately, people can accurately judge others’ narcissism based on how they act, what they say, what they wear, and what their faces look like.
Here, we isolated the facial features that explain the last of these, finding that narcissism judgments principally depend on targets’ eyebrows.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the Journal of Personality (Giacomin & Rule, 2018).