Want to Be an Artist? Try a Little Narcissism

Original work is John William Waterhouse's "Echo and Narcissus" (1903) (via Wikipedia)
Original work is John William Waterhouse’s “Echo and Narcissus” (1903) (via Wikipedia)

A new study has found that narcissistic people are more likely to consider themselves creative and do creative things than their non-narcissistic counterparts. Um … we needed a study to tell us that?

The findings are published in an upcoming issue of the aptly named Thinking Skills and Creativity journal. They detail an experiment conducted by University College London psychologist Adrian Furnham and two colleagues, and although the results are behind a paywall, the abstract tells us:

The aim of this study was to examine the extent to which measures of ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ personality traits predicted creativity, as assessed by the Biographical Inventory of Creative Behaviours and Self-Rated Creativity. … Results revealed similar personality relationships for both creativity measures. In support of previous research, Extraversion, Openness and Narcissism were positively correlated with creativity. Narcissism was most strongly related to self-rated creativity.

Pacific Standard‘s blog breaks things down a little more, explaining that 207 people were surveyed via a series of tasks: they took tests to measure the “big five” personality traits (agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, openness, and neuroticism); they self-assessed their own creativity and answered the question of how many creative activities they had undertaken in the previous year; and they took the Narcissistic Personality Inventory.

In the end, people with narcissistic tendencies were not only more likely to say they were creative; they also were more likely to do creative things. The personality traits of extraversion and openness also corresponded to increased creative activity, which is telling about what this study really shows: that self-confidence goes a long way. If you believe you’re good enough at something, chances are you’ll do it, even if it’s unstable or difficult, as so many creative pursuits are. And chances are you’ll continue trying to do it even in the face of rejection, which is also required in creative fields like art and writing. In fact, this study brings to mind the ongoing discussion about why female journalists are published less often than male ones, which some have attributed to a lack of confidence on the women’s part.

Naturally there’s a point at which self-confidence tips into narcissism, and that’s where one needs to be careful. Then again, if making a sculpture of yourself receiving a blow job isn’t narcissistic, I don’t know what is — and Jeff Koons is laughing all the way to the bank.

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