New students, in those first awkward days of making friends at university, are being told that being a narcissist only works in the short term.
Researchers at the University of Glasgow were part of an international project looking at personality types and friendships among students.
It suggested those with "excessively positive self-regard" were initially the front-runners in making friends.
But after early popularity, narcissism became a "disadvantageous" trait.
For new students feeling overwhelmed by brash attention-seekers, the research offers hope that a more subtle approach will make them more likely to have friends and be popular in the long-run.
The study, carried out by Dr Philip Leifeld in Glasgow and researchers in the US, Germany and the Jagiellonian University, in Krakow, Poland, looked at the dynamics of "peer popularity".
It tracked 15 different peer groups of about 20 students from the first days of university to three months later to follow the fate of narcissists who initially were the centre of attention.
The study, headed in Krakow by psychologist Anna Czarna, defined a narcissist as someone who had an "excessively positive, undeserved self-regard" and a "constant desire for external self-affirmation".
Researchers compared the progress of the narcissists to that of students who were "emotionally intelligent" - and found that after a slower start, the emotionally intelligent began to gain friendships, and in a way that was more likely to last.
Emotional intelligence was associated with a greater awareness of other people's emotions, showing empathy and caring for other people.
Such traits were not necessarily immediately apparent - but the study found that the emotionally intelligent gradually grew in popularity, while the appeal of narcissists began to fade.
A feature of narcissists was that to assert their own position they could often "denigrate" others - and that as this happened they began to provoke "significant dislike".
Dr Czarna said the project allowed researchers to examine the role of emotional behaviour in predicting popularity.
"Our results suggest that narcissism is rather disadvantageous and that emotional intelligence is rather advantageous for long-term popularity," the study said.