Aside from suspiciously white teeth and an ungodly number of selfies on their phone, is there a way to spot a narcissist? According to a new study, look no further than their eyebrows.
New research from the University of Toronto, published in the Journal of Personality, has suggested that people with “distinctive eyebrows” are more likely to display narcissistic personality traits.
The word “narcissist” comes from the ancient Greek story of young Narcissus, who fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water. In general, people with strong narcissistic personality traits score very highly on the self-loving spectrum. They often make good first impressions, appearing to be likable and charming, but they also exhibit self-centered and selfish behavior, often with a grandiose view of their own abilities or appearance.
For an unclear reason, they also have great eyebrows too.
The team of researchers came to this conclusion by photographing almost 40 undergrad students with neutral expressions. They then got the students to carry out a psychological test known as the Narcissistic Personality Inventory to test the strength of any narcissistic traits. The researchers showed the photographs to other participants and asked them to guess how narcissistic each person was based on how they looked.
First of all, their initial results showed participants were particularly good at using eyebrows to make an estimation of the student’s levels of narcissism. In particular, eyebrow thickness and a high density of hair were most likely to be used as an accurate judge of narcissism.
They expanded on this by measuring how much perceptions of narcissism changed when swapping narcissists’ and non-narcissists’ eyebrows between faces. This showed that they rated narcissists’ faces as less narcissistic when they donned non-narcissists’ eyebrows and vice versa.
They concluded that this shows "distinctive eyebrows reveal narcissists’ personality to others," as well as strongly influencing whether people view you as narcissistic.
So, why could this be the case? The researchers didn’t look for a mechanism to explain this link, but they note eyebrows are highly important for social functions and nonverbal communication, so we have an especially acute sense for them. Furthermore, the eyebrow can be used as a microcosm of a person’s wider appearance and identity.
Narcissists seek to be admired so maintain a high level of grooming. “Individuals reporting high levels of narcissism tend to wear more fashionable, stylish, and expensive clothing; have a neater, more organized appearance; and look more attractive,” the study authors write.
Eyebrows are also very important for facial recognition and mate selection (in both females and males), and a pair of meticulously well-kept eyebrows suggest the owner knows this.
This article was originally published in June 2018.