How You Can Tell If Your Friend Is a Narcissist by Their Favorite TV Show

April 1st 2016

Almie Rose

As if you didn't already have enough ammunition for mocking your friend's love of "The Bachelor," you now have another reason. Researchers have discovered a link between those who watch reality TV and those who display narcissistic traits, according to a study published by the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture.

But before you tell your friends that science proves they suck, here are some things to keep in mind.

The study observed 565 college students, with an average age of 20, the Daily Mail reports. They were asked about their television habits (favorite genres of TV, how much TV they watched) and then completed an extensive survey used to assess narcissistic qualities, known as the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, or NPI. You can take the test for yourself right here.

Here's what Narcissistic Personality Inventory test is all about.

The NPI presents you with 40 pairs of statements. You then have to choose between statements, such as:

  • "Modesty doesn't become me." vs. "I am essentially a modest person."
  • "I find it easy to manipulate people." vs. "I don't like it when I find myself manipulating people."
  • "My body is nothing special." vs. "I like to look at my body."

You're then given a score out of 40. The higher the score, the higher the levels of narcissism.

There's an unusual connection between college students who watched more television, specifically reality TV. They had higher NPI scores.

But it wasn't just reality TV that showed narcissism. Those who frequently watched sporting events, TV thrillers, and talk shows (specifically, political talk shows), also showed higher NPI scores.

Who scored the lowest? "Interestingly, preference for news was negatively related to narcissism," according to researchers. "One possible explanation for this finding is that individuals who pay attention to the news are also more civically engaged and less individualistic."

But which came first? The narcissism, or the reality TV?

This is the tricky part. Researchers can't quite determine if it's the reality TV that brings out the narcissism, or if narcissistic personalities are the ones more likely to watch reality TV in the first place.

"I suspect the truth is probably somewhere in the middle — some people with narcissistic tendencies are seeking out media characters similar to themselves, whereas others who watch reality TV see narcissism as normalized behavior and begin acting more narcissistic," Ohio State University researcher Ted Dickinson told Daily Mail.

Another thing to keep in mind: the study did not differentiate types of reality shows, such as "lifestyle" ("Keeping Up with the Kardashians," "The Real Housewives" series) vs. "competition" ("The Apprentice," "Survivor," "Dancing with the Stars"). "[...] we would obviously love to see this research extended into a larger age range with finer delineations between types of reality television," Dickinson said.

Why? Because, "most narcissism research on a broader age range finds that age and narcissism are negatively related - ie older people tend to be less narcissistic than younger people."

Someone should tell former reality TV host Donald Trump.