Are Narcissists Smarter Than Other People?


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Narcissists Smarter Than Other People

Are narcissists highly intelligent? The way they select and psychologically groom their prey may suggest they have above average intelligence. But are manipulation, exploitation, abuse and lying signs of intelligence? Are narcissists smarter than normal people?

Are narcissists smarter than others?

Are narcissists smart? I am pretty sure they are. Are all narcissists smart? Maybe. Maybe not. But if you think narcissists are smarter than other people, then you may need to think again. 

Narcissists are often highly confident, charming, attractive, mentally tough, goal-oriented and charismatic. These traits, when exhibited in a calculated manner, can often create the illusion of intelligence.

Moreover, narcissists truly believe that they are exceptionally intelligent, smart and talented and this confidence can often leave us feeling confused. In fact studies show that narcissism is closely related to self-assessed intelligence. But does that mean they are smarter than you?

Related: What Is Narcissism?

Before answering “are narcissists smarter?”, let us first define ‘smartness’ in this context so that we are all on the same page. Smartness refers to intelligence and one’s ability to be witty, learn from experience, think quickly in challenging situations and adapt to different environments.

Now let’s consider what people with narcissistic personality disorder tend to be like. Narcissists tend to –

  • Have a sense of entitlement
  • Be exploitative and manipulative
  • Have a grandiose sense of self-importance
  • Be passive aggressive
  • Criticize & demean others excessively
  • Be envious of others
  • Need admiration, validation and praise constantly
  • Have poor self-esteem

Do these striking qualities of a narcissist seem like signs of intelligence? No. Not at all. Now I am not saying narcissists can’t be smart, they can be. But being a narcissist does not predispose you to intelligence. There are individual differences when it comes to the level of intelligence in a person, whether you are a narcissist or not. 

Are narcissists smarter than others?
Are narcissists smarter?

Relationship between narcissists and intelligence

So are narcissists smarter than other people? No. Narcissists think they are smart. But don’t take my word for it. Let’s delve into what science has to say about it.

There is no significant relationship between narcissism and intelligence, according to researchers. A research paper, which analyzed 50 students, found that “Intelligence and narcissism are such qualities and traits that completely depend upon an individual.

However, another 2020 study, which analyzed the link between intelligence and grandiose narcissism and vulnerable narcissism, found that narcissists tend to have intelligence-related beliefs and emotions.

Grandiose narcissists tend to have higher “self-perceived intelligence” than “objective intelligence”. Moreover, they also have low engagement in cognitive performance as well. 

However, vulnerable narcissism was not linked to self-perceived intelligence. As vulnerable narcissists do not believe they have superior or inferior intelligence, the study couldn’t reach a conclusion about their level of intellect. Regardless,Both forms of narcissism (grandiose and vulnerable) were unrelated to objective intelligence,stated the study.

Related: 8 Signs You Are Dealing With A Vulnerable Narcissist

Another 2019 study from the University of Waterloo found that narcissists are not necessarily as smart as they think. The authors of the study found that grandiose and vulnerable narcissists are “less likely to use critical thinking processes” and reflective thinking strategies necessary for making decisions and solving problems.

Hence, their confidence in their own intelligence is “often misplaced.” The study also found that when vulnerable narcissists try cognitive reflection, they become confused as it turns out to be an “ineffective experience” for them.

Things narcissists do to appear smarter.
Are narcissists smarter?

So it seems science has a definitive answer when looking at the question – are narcissists smarter? Maybe not. 

One 2002 study did find some relationship between IQ and narcissism while comparing cognitive abilities in the Dark Triad personalities. The researchers found a small but notable positive association between subclinical narcissism and intelligence or cognitive ability.

So what does this mean? Are narcissists smarter than the rest of us? Not necessarily. Regardless of how self-glorifying a male or female narcissist may be, they are not as smart as they believe themselves to be.

However, this does not mean that they can’t be intelligent. As I said before, intelligence primarily depends on the individual and is not determined by a person’s narcissistic personality disorder.

Related: 9 Genuine Signs of Intelligence That People Can’t Fake

Narcissists make themselves seem smart

Grandiose narcissists typically exaggerate their abilities and importance. They present themselves as intelligent, smart and all-knowing individuals to create a fabricated social image.

However, this does not mean that they are necessarily intelligent even if they put in a lot of effort to seem so. They may possess an extraordinary vocabulary and gain knowledge about certain topics to maintain their image, but they are not as smart as they seem. 

Narcissists may use certain strategies to create the illusion of being smarter than they really are in front of others. Here are a few things narcissists do to appear smarter –

  • Exaggerate or lie about their abilities
  • Use fancy words inappropriately
  • Discount others’ knowledge, abilities or intelligence
  • Correct the grammar of another person
  • Randomly change a topic to avoid exposing their actual level of intelligence
  • Use words to distort logic, facts and reason
  • Talk only about topics they know about or the other person lacks knowledge of
  • Demean or criticize people contradicting their opinions
  • Be defensive or aggressive to protect their ego
  • Glorify themselves and present themselves as highly important

And due to this habit of deceiving others, the answer to the question ‘are narcissists smarter and more intelligent?’ seems confusing. But it’s all just a grand show by a talented actor who performs in real life rather than on the stage.

These false geniuses fantasize about being highly valued, are delusional and live in an alternate reality filled with fantastical beliefs inside their minds. And this is the reason why they believe they are smarter than others and often fool us to believe their delusions as well.

In fact, recent research shows that narcissistic women are perceived as intelligent by their romantic partners. The study found that grandiose narcissism is positively correlated with self and partner’s estimation of intelligence.

Hence, people who are close to a narcissist, like a spouse or a romantic partner, often believe that narcissists are highly intelligent. However, this tendency is observed more in partners of narcissistic women.

Related: Why A Narcissist May Seem Emotionally Intelligent

People with narcissistic personality disorder.
Are narcissists smarter?

Why do narcissists care so much about intelligence?

Now that we have a better understanding of ‘are narcissists smarter?’, let’s focus on why they are so obsessed with appearing smart. Researchers have revealed that people with grandiose narcissism believe intelligence is crucial for success and is associated with their psychological well-being. This is the reason why narcissists desperately convince themselves and others of their alleged superior intelligence.

One 2020 study found that narcissists value intelligence because they are obsessed with pursuing “agentic goals”, like autonomy, competence and social status. As high intelligence is an important factor in attaining the agentic goals, social behavior and self-regulation of grandiose narcissists are often dominated by the idea of being exceptionally smart, witty and intelligent.

Narcissists believe intelligence is a vital asset and resource that can prove advantageous in different aspects of life. So these ‘not-necessarily-smart’ individuals create, maintain & defend a false self-view of being highly intellectual and appear smart to other people, even though the reality may be different.

Thus, even though grandiose narcissism is essentially unrelated to objectively assessed intelligence, intelligence nevertheless plays an important role in the way grandiose narcissists think, feel, and behave,” explains the 2020 study. 

Related: Fluid Intelligence: 5 Ways To Improve Your Mental Abilities To Solve New Problems

Narcissists victimize smart people

Are narcissists smarter? They are not automatically smart, but they prey on smart individuals. They lie, they manipulate, they lovebomb, they gaslight, they exploit and they abuse. And these are all strategies they use to play toxic mind games with intelligent people.

Dominating and controlling people who are actually smart makes the narcissist feel that they are smarter than their victims. They prey and exploit your needs, vulnerabilities, dreams and weaknesses.

No, they are not smart or intelligent. They are just excellent actors who have mastered the toxic art of manipulative mind games. They use their truly intelligent victims to climb up the ladder of success by using lies and deception.

They are not smart, they are cowards. Stupid, parasitic, little cowards who prey on others to get what they want because they are not smart enough to get it themselves. Being deceptive and a pathological liar are not signs of intelligence and this is exactly what a narcissist does.

So instead of asking ‘are narcissists smarter?’, ask ‘are you smarter than them?’ and the answer is inevitably yes. People who believe in love, care and respect are intelligent. People who trust narcissists but eventually wake up to figure out their narcissistic game, and realize they are being exploited and abused, they are intelligent.

People who have the courage to walk out of a narcissistic relationship to protect themselves, they are intelligent. People who have the strength to heal themselves and still believe in love, they are intelligent. Not the narcissist.

Related: How To Outplay A Narcissist And Beat Them At Their Own Game

Narcissistic personality disorder.
Are narcissists smarter?

Making a fool of others is not a sign of smartness or intelligence. It’s a sign of narcissism. People who are responsible, who sacrifice their dreams for their loved ones, who take care of others, who do what they need to do even when they do not feel like doing it, these people are smart and intelligent. Not the narcissist.

Self-perceived intelligence is not actual intelligence

Are narcissists smarter? Well, you know the answer to it by now. Believing you are smart and actually being smart are two very different things. No matter how self-glorifying a narcissist may be, their level of intelligence is not associated with their level of narcissism.

Although there is no specific way to measure one’s objective intelligence effectively and accurately, the ability to be intelligent depends on the individual and varies from one person to the other. Intelligence is not about how well you can control or manipulate someone. It is about how creative you are in solving problems and overcoming challenges. 

Intelligence is not about how narcissistic you can be. It is about how well you are able to build your own life as well as the lives of others around you. 

Related: Science Says People Who Swear More Have Superior Intelligence

Here is an interesting video on the topic that you may like:

Are narcissists smarter?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Do narcissists have high emotional intelligence?

Although emotional intelligence in narcissists has not been studied in detail, some researchers have found that narcissists believe they are highly emotionally intelligent. However, the general consensus is that narcissists have low emotional intelligence.

Are female narcissists vindictive?

Although female narcissists may not be as grandiose as male narcissists, they do tend to be as vindictive and cunning as their male counterparts. They are extremely superficial, competitive, dominating, jealous and extremely manipulative.

Are narcissists born or made?

Narcissism is a personality disorder which may be genetic in nature. Hence, someone may inherit this mental condition from their parents or relatives. However, certain factors like parenting styles, childhood abuse or neglect, and excessive appraisal can also lead to narcissism in biologically vulnerable individuals.

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Narcissists Smarter Than Others

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