Are women more attracted to 'dark and brooding' men?

February 25, 2016, University of Liverpool
Are women more attracted to 'dark and brooding' men?

A paper co-authored by a researcher from the University's Institute of Psychology, Health and Society states that women are generally drawn to men with dark and brooding looks. This in turn may relate to their reproductive success.

University researcher, Dr Minna Lyons, and colleagues from Jagiellonian University Medical College, Poland and The University of Turku, Finland published the paper entitled 'Women's reproductive success and the preference for Dark Triad in men's Faces' in the Journal of Evolution and Human Behaviour.

Dark Triad

The term 'Dark Triad' refers to a group of three personality traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy. Use of the word "dark" implies that people scoring high on these traits have malevolent qualities.

  • Narcissism is characterized by pride, egotism, grandiosity and a lack of empathy
  • Machiavellianism is characterized by exploitation and manipulation of others, a disregard for morality, and a focus on self-interest and deception
  • Psychopathy is characterized by enduring anti-social behaviour, selfishness, callousness, impulsivity and remorselessness

As part of the study 2,370 adult female volunteers were shown a selection of computer simulated men's in sets of two – with one face with more or less of the 'Dark Triad' features than the other. The women were asked which of the two they were most attracted to.

Some were attracted to men with strong features associated with psychopathy or Machiavellian traits or narcissists while others were not.  These features range from appearing 'aggressive' and 'less happy' as relating to psychopathic tendencies to 'dishonest' for Machiavellian and 'masculine' and 'dominant' for narcissists.

Reproductive success

Dr Lyons, said: "We examined whether the preferences of the women surveyed for the Dark Triad personality traits in men's faces were related to reproductive success. Previous studies have found that out of the three Dark Triad features, narcissism was associated with physical and psychological health benefits in men as well as social success.

"We predicted that women's preference for narcissism could be most strongly related to their reproductive success, and as we found that women with preference for high narcissistic men's faces gave birth to more offspring. Women with strong preference for Machiavellian male faces reported fewer offspring than their same-aged peers with weak preference. Those with a preference for psychopathic men's faces was unrelated to women's current number of offspring.

"These findings suggest that in today's society women's for some of the Dark Triad traits in men may be related to their ."

The full paper can be found on the Journal of Evolution and Human Behaviour website.

Explore further: Study finds night owls more likely to be psychopaths

More information: Urszula M. Marcinkowska et al. Women's reproductive success and the preference for Dark Triad in men's faces, Evolution and Human Behavior (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2016.01.004

Related Stories

Study finds night owls more likely to be psychopaths

August 1, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—People who stay up late at night are more likely to display anti-social personality traits such as narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathic tendencies, according to a study published by a University ...

New mums experience a change in their taste of men

December 23, 2014
New mothers' taste in men changes after giving birth, according to research from the University of Stirling.

A woman's face drives relationship length: study

June 21, 2013
Men looking for a quick fling prefer women with more "feminine" facial features, said a study Friday that delved into the evolutionary determinants of the mating game.

Posting a lot of selfies may suggest anti-social traits

January 6, 2015
The picture isn't pretty for guys who post a lot of selfies on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram.

In dating game, narcissists get the girl

May 31, 2013
(HealthDay News)—Men with high levels of narcissism—an unrealistically positive self-image coupled with feelings of entitlement—have an easier time than others attracting a potential mate, new German research says.

Study shows men find women with more feminine faces more attractive, but less so in harsh environments

April 30, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—A large team made up of researchers from around the globe has found that men are less attracted to a feminine female face if they are living in under harsh conditions. In their paper published in the journal ...

Recommended for you

Algorithm identifies patients best suited for antidepressants

July 17, 2018
McLean Hospital researchers have completed a study that sought to determine which individuals with depression are best suited for antidepressant medications. Their findings, published in Psychological Medicine on July 2, ...

Researchers explore how information enters our brains

July 17, 2018
Think you're totally in control of your thoughts? Maybe not as much as you think, according to a new San Francisco State University study that examines how thoughts that lead to actions enter our consciousness.

The scent of coffee appears to boost performance in math

July 17, 2018
Drinking coffee seems to have its perks. In addition to the physical boost it delivers, coffee may lessen our risk of heart disease, diabetes and dementia. Coffee may even help us live longer. Now, there's more good news: ...

Early puberty in white adolescent boys increases substance use risk

July 16, 2018
White adolescent boys experiencing early puberty are at higher risk for substance use than later developing boys, a new Purdue University study finds.

How looking at the big picture can lead to better decisions

July 13, 2018
New research suggests how distancing yourself from a decision may help you make the choice that produces the most benefit for you and others affected.

Nature is proving to be awesome medicine for PTSD

July 13, 2018
The awe we feel in nature can dramatically reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to UC Berkeley research that tracked psychological and physiological changes in war veterans and at-risk inner-city youth ...

3 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Moebius
5 / 5 (3) Feb 25, 2016
It seems to me that assigning looks to Narcissism, Machiavellianism and Psychopathy is highly subjective and upsetting. I am going to hide in a dark corner and brood about it while planning anti-social activities to see if it makes me more attractive to women.
SciTechdude
not rated yet Feb 25, 2016
A little bit arbitrarily measured to be sure. But social sciences are often like that.
IronhorseA
not rated yet Feb 25, 2016
Well, nobody is perfect.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.