As reported by Artnet, a study in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, has found that artists, along with actors and musicians, often share key personality traits with individuals who have psychopathic traits. It appears that creative types tend to have higher levels of emotional disinhibition, in the form of psychopathic boldness, as well as being prone to dishonesty and risktaking.

Artists may even share psychopaths’ attitudes toward cruelty, evidenced by frequent failed relationships amid stories of abuse (as reported by Picasso’s ex’s, for example), further fuelling suspicions that creativity may have roots in psychopathy.


In a report in the European Journal of Finance, Florida State University’s Professor Yi Zhou, who studies empirical asset-pricing, has a tip if you’re looking for a profitable art investment: measure artists’ signatures.

Evidently, in psychology, signature size is closely linked to self-regard, and there is data on artists’ signatures. Professor Zhou measured hundreds of signatures, then compared the results to historical auction price data, numbers of museum shows and ‘artistic reputation’. Conclusion? Artists with bigger than average signatures – and, it is implied, bigger egos – got greater than average attention and commanded higher prices.

Professor Zhou also looked at two alternative proxies for narcissism: the number of self-portraits and frequency of use of the word ‘I’ in published interviews. Both measures also showed statistical correlation with success.

Says Professor Zhou: “Narcissistic artists will have higher prices and they will have more recognition in the art world, A one standard deviation* increase of selfportraits increases the market price of art by 13 per cent. A one standard deviation increase in first person pronouns will increase market price of art by 4 per cent.”

Comments Artnet: ‘It would not be particularly outrageous to argue that artists who have grandiose self-images are better at convincing others that they are geniuses.’

*a measure used to quantify the amount of variation from the mean

Share this page

You may also like

Sign up for Artmag’s free weekly newsletter!

Join us every Friday morning for the latest art news, art openings, exhibitions, live performances, interviews and stories + top UK and international art destinations.