New analysis released Tuesday in Personality and Individual Differences has good news for the misunderstood Slytherins of the world (read: all of them). Narcissism, a definitively Malfoy-esque trait, might be a predictor of both mental toughness and academic achievement, say scientists. But if you’re a real narcissist, you probably already knew that already.
While the sorting hat defines Slytherins as ambitious and cunning, the muggle cognitive scientists from Queens University Belfast that wrote the paper define it as a sense of “grandiosity, entitlement, dominance and superiority.” Historically, narcissism has been seen as is a one pillar of the “dark triad” — which also includes Machiavellianism and psychopathy — a model to analyze certain “undesirable behaviors”. The new research, which focuses on subclinical narcissism (the kind we’re all guilty of once in a while) rather than narcissistic personality disorder, suggests that narcissism may be misplaced in the dark triad. Instead of predicting malevolent behavior, it may be a sign of more admirable traits. “We are currently conducting new research to further test this mediation model,” lead study author and developmental psychologist Kostas Papageorgiou, Ph.D. tells Inverse. “Narcissism leads to higher mental toughness, resulting in a positive outcome.”
Papageorgiou’s study evaluated 340 teenage students using a variety of surveys. To measure “subclinical narcissism,” he and his team asked students to indicate how much they related to statements like “People seem to see me as a natural leader.” Mental toughness was measured by asking students to respond to questions like “I generally cope well with problems that occur….” The data resulting from these surveys were compared to the results of tests measuring cognitive ability as well as school grades in subjects like literacy, math and foreign languages.
Statistical analysis of these results yielded a correlation between high “narcissism scores” and high “mental toughness scores”. The high mental toughness scores, in turn, were correlated with better grades (interestingly, this was more apparent in literacy tests than in math and language tests — maybe an avenue for more research). But Papageorgiou is adamant that the relationship between the three is nuanced. It’s also a bit of a transitive property nightmare. Step one: Narcissism is associated with confidence. Step two: Confidence is also associated with mental toughness. Step three: Because of this confidence, you likely have the mental toughness needed to produce good grades. Ultimately, the team concludes, narcissism is actually a predictor of another key element in school achievement: confidence.
“What we have found is that narcissism predicts higher mental toughness resulting in higher school grades,” Papageorgiou says. “This link may be explained by the the fact that narcissism associates with confidence, which is a core element of mental toughness.”
Though Papageorgiou focused only on subclinical narcissism, his study suggests even normal narcissism might pull a Severus Snape and swap sides: instead of being lumped in with the dark triad, clinically diagnosed narcissists might also fit better the ranks of good guys and their associated behaviors: intelligence, confidence, and mental toughness.