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

College students choose smartphones over food

November 16, 2018
University at Buffalo researchers have found that college students prefer food deprivation over smartphone deprivation, according to results from a paper in Addictive Behaviors.

Study finds mindfulness apps can improve mental health

November 15, 2018
A University of Otago study has found that using mindfulness meditation applications (apps) on phones is associated with improvements in people's mental health.

Social media is affecting the way we view our bodies—and not in a good way

November 15, 2018
Young women who actively engage with social media images of friends who they think are more attractive than themselves report feeling worse about their own appearance afterward, a York University study shows.

New research has revealed we are actually better at remembering names than faces

November 14, 2018
With the Christmas party season fast approaching, there will be plenty of opportunity to re-live the familiar, and excruciatingly-awkward, social situation of not being able to remember an acquaintance's name.

Older adults' abstract reasoning ability predicts depressive symptoms over time

November 14, 2018
Age-related declines in abstract reasoning ability predict increasing depressive symptoms in subsequent years, according to data from a longitudinal study of older adults in Scotland. The research is published in Psychological ...

The illusion of multitasking boosts performance

November 13, 2018
Our ability to do things well suffers when we try to complete several tasks at once, but a series of experiments suggests that merely believing that we're multitasking may boost our performance by making us more engaged in ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

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.
not rated yet Feb 25, 2016
A little bit arbitrarily measured to be sure. But social sciences are often like that.
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.