This might raise some eyebrows: Apparently, you can spot a narcissist just by looking at their brows. According to a new study, people with thicker, more distinctive brows are more likely to have a form of narcissism called grandiose narcissism, which is characterized by overconfidence, an assertive personality, and an inflated sense of self-worth.
In the study, published in the Journal of Personality, researchers had 39 students take the Narcissism Personality Inventory (NPI), a test that assesses how narcissistic a person is. They then took photos of each student’s face and asked 28 other individuals to rate them from 1 (not at all narcissistic) to 8 (extremely narcissistic) on looks alone.
When the researchers compared the NPI results to the ratings, they found that study subjects whose test results showed them to be narcissists also scored high on the narcissism ratings scale based just on their photo facial features.
The researchers then went back and asked the group that did the facial ratings to view only parts of each study subject’s face. The raters accurately picked out the narcissists again, this time based on the upper—but not lower—part of their face, specifically their eyebrows.
In another analysis, reviewers looked at photos of 121 undergraduates study subjects. The reviewers were asked to rate each student’s eyebrows on femininity, grooming, and distinctiveness. The distinctiveness rating related to the individuals’ NPI rating, suggesting that grandiose narcissists seem to have more distinct (in other words, thicker and denser) brows.
So why would thick, bushy brows be linked to narcissism? It could be that narcissists, with their overblown confidence and need to be admired, might groom their brows distinctively so other people will remember them.
“Narcissists may maintain distinct, thick, and dense brows to enhance recognition, which they are motivated to attain,” stated Miranda Giacomin, study co-author, in an interview with The Independent. “This may also facilitate a desire to be remembered and liked by others, which reinforces positive views they have of themselves.”
These brow-furrowing results are the latest in a wide body of research on how eyebrows are associated with personality. The study authors mention research suggesting that people can’t recognize celebrities without their signature brows, and they reference previous studies demonstrating that eyebrows influence attractiveness and mate selection.
So while they may appear to be a collection tiny hairs above our eyes, our brows could tell us (and others) a lot more than you’d think.
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