One of the more frustrating features of dealing with people high on narcissism is their constant need to present a favorable impression. Whether it’s dressing up for even the most insignificant occasion, such as going to the gym, or wanting random strangers to like them, narcissists seem determined to put forward the best face possible. They may spend hours in front of the mirror fixing their hair and putting on their makeup and put out far more than they can afford on clothing, jewelry, and shoes, although they’ll deny the actual effort they put in to achieve the perfect look. Researchers who study narcissism naturally worry, then, that these individuals will be even more likely to lie than the average person on tests that tap into those very narcissistic tendencies they’re trying to measure.
The concern over narcissists, and their tendency to “fake good,” or answer in ways intended to cover up their real personalities, led University of Georgia psychologist Chelsea Sleep and colleagues (2017) to investigate. The research teams noted that “although narcissism is associated with self-enhancement and potentially distorted or inaccurate perceptions about the self, relatively little is known about whether these narcissistic traits affect the validity of responding on psychological questionnaires” (p. 1060). This is a rather puzzling situation because you might think the first step a researcher would take when investigating people known for such self-aggrandizing, who additionally lack little insight about themselves, would be to check out their tendencies to lie on questionnaires.