"Narcissist" is a term that gets thrown around quite a lot. Perhaps it's a word you use to describe the mansplainer in your office, or that friend who seems to habitually forget to ask you, like, any questions about your life, and instead always babbles on about her own. And while both of those personalities definitely reek of self-involvement, in reality, narcissism is a straight-up clinical term. There's not exactly a clear-cut answer for how to know if someone's a narcissist, but according to a new study, there may be one specific, physical feature that immediately reveals this part of a person's personality. Apparently, it's all about the eyebrows.
That's right, guys. Business Insider reports the results of a new study, published in the Journal of Personality, which found that people who have thicker, denser, and markedly more distinct eyebrows are more likely to be narcissists than their thinner-eyebrow counterparts. The study, called "Eyebrows Cue Grandiose Narcissism" (you can't make this stuff up, people) had volunteers look at the faces of people who, according to The Independent, had taken a test called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, which is used to measure a person's personality on the scale of subclinical to grandiose narcissism.
Oddly enough, the volunteers in the study did a really good job of identifying the grandiose narcissists without ever being told where they were on that spectrum.
As if that's not wild enough, get this: In a second part of the experiment, the volunteers were shown only pictures of the subjects' eyebrows, with no other identifying features, and they were still pretty accurate in identifying the narcissists. Oh, your mind still isn't blown? Well, the researchers also tried Photoshopping the "narcissist eyebrows" onto people who weren't actually clinical narcissists, and the volunteers still identified them as narcissists! Through each phase of this study, the researchers showed that eyebrows, and eyebrows alone, were a huge indicator of whether or not someone was thought to be a narcissist. Specifically, per Business Insider, the volunteers "highlighted femininity, grooming, and distinctiveness" when identifying whether or not someone was a narcissist. What's more, the news outlet explained, narcissists' eyebrows were more likely to be "darker, thicker, [and] more distinctive."
According to Miranda Giacomin, a lead researcher on the study from the University of Toronto, a possible explanation for these strange results may have something to do with narcissists enjoying being noticed. She told The Independent,
Eyebrows facilitate facial recognition. Narcissists may maintain distinct, thick, and dense brows to enhance recognition, which they are motivated to attain.
As for why the researchers themselves conducted the study in the first place, they wrote in their research,
Though initially charming and inviting, narcissists often engage in negative interpersonal behaviors. Identifying and avoiding narcissists therefore carries adaptive value.
But listen, not everyone with distinct eyebrows is a narcissist, of course. Thick eyebrows are "in" right now, after all. So if you're still unclear on what a narcissist actually is, luckily, counselor David Bennett clarifies the definition in an interview with Elite Daily, as well as ways to recognize the traits.
First of all, Bennett says, it's important to note that narcissistic personality disorder is a real, clinical, mental health disorder, and is relatively rare in the general population.
According to Bennett, less than 1 percent of the general population has narcissistic personality disorder, though some research has estimated the numbers are a bit higher, at about 6 percent. Either way, the point is, it's a pretty rare mental health disorder to be diagnosed with, hence why it's not really OK to throw the term around so casually.
To that point, Bennett clarifies that, just because someone is cocky, self-centered, says things you disagree with, or treats others badly in some contexts doesn’t necessarily mean that person is clinically classified as having narcissistic personality disorder. Narcissism also exists at a subclinical level on a spectrum, he says. "While it may seem that many successful, self-assured, and disagreeable people are clinically narcissistic, that's not true," he tells Elite Daily.
It's when these traits are inflexible, persistent, or cause significant functional impairment or distress that they translate to genuine narcissism.
"We tend to think of narcissists as causing distress for others (which they do!), but clinically diagnosed narcissists also cause a lot of distress for themselves," Bennett says. He gives the example of a client he once had who lost his family and his business because of "choices related to the illusion that he could make no mistakes." Yikes.
"To put it briefly," Bennett says, "if someone demands excessive admiration, can’t take criticism even in the face of tremendous evidence, and it is negatively impacting their lives (and has for some time), then I would suggest that person may be a candidate for being diagnosed with clinical narcissism."
Bottom line: The eyebrows aren't necessarily everything, people. Besides, that thicker look is pretty cute, so don't let this one study steer you away from the trend.