The most common strategy for measuring narcissism is to use a self-report questionnaire. These come in several forms:
1. Grandiose narcissism measures
A. The most well used measure of narcissism is the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI). There are several version available, including a long form (hard to find), two 40 item versions (the most common by Raskin & Terry ), a 16 item version with no subfactors (Ames) , and 13 item version with 3 subfactors (Gentile). These were all designed to be forced choice scales, but some T/F versions and Likert-type versions are floating around.
B. A second option it the Grandiose Narcissism Scale (Rosenthal). This is less commonly used, but makes for a nice supplement to the NPI.
C. Hogan Bold score.
2. Vulnerable narcissism measures
A. The most commonly used measure in the Hypersensitive Narcissism Scale (HSNS; cite).
B. There are several other rarely used vulnerable measure like the O’Brien (cite).
3. “clinical” measures
There are several measures designed to capture narcissism in clinical contexts. We don’t see any bright line between “normal” and “clinical” measures, but these might be useful in some situations, especially when using full test batteries to capture personality disorder traits.
These measures seem to capture elements of both grandiose and vulnerable narcissism. The SCID (cite) and Million (cite) capture a more grandiose flavor of narcissism; the PDQ (cite) captures a more vulnerable form.
4. Measures Designed to Capture Grandiose and Vulnerable Narcissism
A couple measures are designed to capture both grandiose and vulnerable narcissism in a single scale.
A. The Pathological Narcissism Inventory (PNI; Pincus) captures xx subscales of narcissism in xx items. This is a relatively commonly used measure. In our experience, it does a good job capturing vulnerable narcissism but does not capture grandiosity very well
B. The Five Factor Narcissism Inventory (FFNI; cite) is a newer measure designed to capture both grandiose and vulnerable narcissism with items derived from the Big Five. This scale is relatively long, but does capture both grandiose and vulnerable narcissism well.
5. Dark Triad Measures
The Dark Triad is composed of narcissism along with psychopathy and Machiavellianism (Paulhus and Williams, cite). There are a couple targeted Dark Triad measures available.
The Dirty Dozen (Jonosaon, cite) is a brief (12 item) measure. This measure is useful when length a concern, but there is some loss of precision with the short scale.
The SD xx (Paulhus) is a longer alternative that in our experience provides a little more precision for its length.
6. More specific measures
There are several measures that get at more targeted aspects of narcissism that can be useful in certain research settings.
A. The Psychological Entitlement Scael (PES; Campbell et al., cite) is a single factor measure of entitlement.
C. The Communal Narcissism Scale (CNS; cite) is a measure of narcissism in communal domains (rather than the more agentic domains captured by the NPI; cite).
7. Narcissism in Children
The Childhood Narcissism Scale (CNS; Thomaes, et al, 2008) is a 10-item single factor measure.
The NPI-C is a variant of the NPI designed for use with children (Barry,Frick, & Killian, 2003)
7. Converting FFM facets into narcissism scores
A final option, especially useful for examining existing data, is to transform NEO facet level data (or an open-source alternative) into a narcissism score. Basically, you match an individual’s NEO profile to an expert profile of narcissism (cites) or meta-analytically defined profile (cite).
There is no one “right way” to measure narcissism. The choice of measure depends on time (short or long) and measurement goals (grandiose and/or vulnerable).
Given only a short time, we would suggest using the NPI-13 (if you want factor scores) or NPI-16. This can be paired with the HSNS for a short but complete measure.
If you have additional time, the NPI 40 and the HSNS scale can be used to capture grandiose and vulnerable narcissism.
If your are relatively unconstrained, it is useful to include multiple measures of grandiose and vulnerable narcissism. These measures can then be used to create factor scores for grandiosity and vulnerability. Alternately, conducting replications with different narcissism measures is useful in some situations.
There may be specific theoretical reasons where it is ideal to use specific narcissism measures described above, such as the PES for entitlement or NARQ for testing their two factor model.
Finally, if the goal is to cover narcissism as part of a broader portfolio of traits (e.g., Dark Triad; Personality Disorders) then measures designed to capture these full portfolios would be ideal.
Citations and Further Reading
Barry, C. T., Frick, P. J., & Killian, A. L. (2003). The relation of narcissism and self-esteem to conduct problems in children: A preliminary investigation. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 32(1), 139-152.
Raskin, R., & Terry, H. (1988). A principal-components analysis of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory and further evidence of its construct validity. Journal of personality and social psychology, 54), 890-902.
Emmons, R. A. (1987). Narcissism: theory and measurement. Journal of personality and social psychology, 52(1), 11-17.
Hendin, H. M., & Cheek, J. M. (1997). Assessing hypersensitive narcissism: A reexamination of Murray's Narcism Scale. Journal of Research in Personality, 31(4), 588-599.
Ames, D. R., Rose, P., & Anderson, C. P. (2006). The NPI-16 as a short measure of narcissism. Journal of Research in Personality, 40(4), 440-450.
Emmons, R. A. (1984). Factor analysis and construct validity of the narcissistic personality inventory\. Journal of personality assessment, 48(3), 291-300.
Miller, J. D., Hoffman, B. J., Gaughan, E. T., Gentile, B., Maples, J., & Keith Campbell, W. (2011). Grandiose and vulnerable narcissism: A nomological network analysis. Journal of personality, 79(5), 1013-1042.
Miller, J. D., Gentile, B., Wilson, L., & Campbell, W. K. (2013). Grandiose and vulnerable narcissism and the DSM–5 pathological personality trait model. Journal of personality assessment, 95(3), 284-290.
Raskin, R. N., & Hall, C. S. (1979). A narcissistic personality inventory. Psychological reports, 45(2), 590-590.
Gentile, B., Miller, J. D., Hoffman, B. J., Reidy, D. E., Zeichner, A., & Campbell, W. K. (2013). A test of two brief measures of grandiose narcissism: The Narcissistic Personality Inventory–13 and the Narcissistic Personality Inventory-16. Psychological assessment, 25(4), 1120-1136.
Miller, J. D., Gentile, B., & Campbell, W. K. (2013). A test of the construct validity of the Five-Factor Narcissism Inventory. Journal of personality assessment, 95(4), 377-387.
Miller, J. D., Few, L. R., Wilson, L., Gentile, B., Widiger, T. A., MacKillop, J., & Keith Campbell, W. (2013). The Five-Factor Narcissism Inventory (FFNI): A test of the convergent, discriminant, and incremental validity of FFNI scores in clinical and community samples. Psychological assessment, 25(3), 748-758.
Pincus, A. L., Ansell, E. B., Pimentel, C. A., Cain, N. M., Wright, A. G., & Levy, K. N. (2009). Initial construction and validation of the Pathological Narcissism Inventory. Psychological assessment, 21(3), 365-379.
Gebauer, J. E., Sedikides, C., Verplanken, B., & Maio, G. R. (2012). Communal narcissism. Journal of personality and social psychology, 103(5), 854-878.
Paulhus, D. L., & Williams, K. M. (2002). The dark triad of personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Journal of research in personality, 36(6), 556-563.
Jonason, P. K., & Webster, G. D. (2010). The dirty dozen: a concise measure of the dark triad. Psychological assessment, 22(2), 420-432.
O'Brien, M. L. (1987). Examining the dimensionality of pathological narcissism: Factor analysis and construct validity of the O'Brien Multiphasic Narcissism Inventory. Psychological Reports, 61(2), 499-510.
Thomaes, S., Stegge, H., Bushman, B. J., Olthof, T., & Denissen, J. (2008). Development and validation of the Childhood Narcissism Scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 90(4), 382-391.