Creative types have a bit of a reputation for self-love. Pablo Picasso, for example, once famously declared “I am God,” and more recently, New York Magazine ran a sex advice article about the perils of dating an artist. (The title of the piece was “Civilian Casualties.”) And it’s not just artists—the stereotype applies to successful people in business, art, and other creative endeavors.
But a recent study has shown that narcissists may not actually generate more creative ideas—they’re just better at convincing others of their own creativity.
Researchers asked participants to fill out a questionnaire called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, which determined their level of relative narcissism. Participants were then paired up and one person in the pair was asked to develop and pitch a movie idea to the other.
Results found that people being pitched to by narcissists were fifty percent more likely to be impressed than those who were facing non-narcissists. (This was based on a post-pitch survey, which asked the evaluators to agree with statements like, “it is unlikely that anyone has come up with a movie idea like this before.”)
Independent evaluators (who only read the ideas on paper) found that the ideas were all pretty generic across the board. The narcissists’ ideas were no better than the non-narcissists’ despite high reviews from their face-to-face reviewers.
To see if this trend held true in business, researchers performed a second study, which separated their participants into teams of four, and asked them to draw up proposals to improve the performance of real businesses.
The results from this experiment were more varied. Teams that had a majority of narcissists or a majority of non-narcissist tended to struggle with discussing a lot of ideas. Teams that were split evenly, however, were more efficient, and ended up coming up with the most ideas by far.
Jack Goncalo, one of the lead psychologists in the study, said that this could be because narcissists are particularly good at getting ideas on the table. Too many egos in the room tends to prevent anything from getting done.