Talking about yourself all the time might make you a jerk, but it doesn't necessarily make you a narcissist.
Although it may seem logical to assume that narcissists talk about themselves more than the average person -- after all, the personality trait is characterized by excessive self-absorption and feelings of superiority and entitlement -- frequent use of "I" and "me" in conversation is not linked with narcissism, according to a study published last week in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
The new study builds on preliminary research conducted at the University of California, Berkeley in the 1980s. To test the link between language and narcissism, scientists from seven universities in the U.S. and Germany asked nearly 5,000 participants to take part in a series of communication tests designed to measure "I-talk" -- the use of the pronouns "I" and "me." During the tests, the participants were prompted to write or speak about either themselves or an unrelated topic. The researchers also used personality questionnaires to rate the participants' levels of narcissism.
Surprisingly, the strength of a person's ego didn't seem to be reflected in their language choices. The findings revealed that people who were more narcissistic were no more likely to use "I-talk" than people who were less narcissistic, even across cultures and genders.
This all raises an important question: How can you spot a narcissist -- and avoid a toxic relationship with one? According to Angela Carey, a doctoral student at the University of Arizona and one of the study's authors, narcissists won't just be speaking about themselves -- they'll likely be speaking very highly of themselves.
"Some ways to identify whether someone is narcissistic based on their communication patterns might be to pay attention to amount of bragging, efforts to elevate themselves by comparing down to others, as well as efforts to draw attention to themselves and maintain superiority over others," Carey told The Huffington Post.