Sexy Sociopaths

This Scientific American article claims that “psychology” has found out why the dark personality triad: psychopaths, narcissists, and Machiavellians (a tendency to be emotionally cool and detached, and thus more able to detach from conventional morality and to deceive and manipulate others) are sexier than everyone else and it’s because they are better at making themselves look desirable. Here is an explanation of the study:

Nicholas Holtzman and Michael Strube of Washington University in St. Louis were interested in looking at the relationship between physical attractiveness and people’s tendencies towards narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism. They wanted to find out whether these three traits, referred to as the “dark triad,” are associated with a greater ability to successfully enhance one’s physical appearance.

To test this idea, they invited 111 college students (64 percent women) into their laboratory. Each student was photographed soon after they arrived. Then, after taking this initial photograph, each student asked to change out of their own clothes and put on a pair of gray sweatpants and a t-shirt. Women were instructed to remove any makeup, and anyone with long hair was asked to pull it back into a ponytail. The students were then photographed in this more natural state. Holtzman and Strube showed both sets of photographs to a group of strangers who rated them in terms of physical attractiveness. By comparing the attractiveness ratings of the dressed-down and dressed-up students, the researchers were able to determine how much each student was able to make themselves more appealing through flashy clothes, makeup, accessories, etc.

Next Holtzman and Strube assessed the students’ personalities and their tendencies towards narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism. They asked the students to rate themselves and to provide email addresses for a few of their friends so that the researchers could ask them to provide ratings as well. This combination of self and peer ratings was used to calculate a final set personality scores for each student. Furthermore, the students’ ratings on narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism were combined into create a composite “dark triad” score.

The dark triad score was positively correlated with their “dressed-up” attractiveness – a finding that mirrors previous findings. However, the dark triad score was not related to ratings of physical attractiveness in the dressed-down photos. In other words, people with dark personality traits are not seen as more physically attractive than others when you take away their freedom to wear their own clothes and makeup. People with dark personalities seem to be better at making themselves physically appealing.

I think an easier explanation is that these personality types don’t put everything up on the table right away. There is ALWAYS something sexy and mysterious about them even when they themselves are not physically attractive. I think people are very drawn to the idea of someone with hidden, deeper dimensions of their personality, good or bad.

BUT the easiest explanation is that all of these personality types are more driven by reason than emotion. Puritanical nonsense doesn’t stand up to reason and therefore old fashioned notions like it’s not ok to give an uncivilized blow job on the first date go out the window. People are very tuned into these subtle cues we give off. Those with dark personalities are appealing to us because they are great in the sack. That’s all there is to it.

Since there’s room for more “science” in this post, Here’s an experiment that concluded that men don’t care if a woman’s dating profile makes her look like a full blown psycho, as long as she is cute she’ll get attention.

I don’t think any of this is science. People gravitate towards attractive people who are DTF. Narcissists, even people who have a healthy dose of narcissism in them don’t go out unless they look good or rich or whatever selling point they’ve got. Sociopaths spend their entire lives learning what is most appealing to people. We are all wired to want to bone the best specimen we can. Relationships and love come afterwards, as the first article says:

The more humble among us can take heart in knowing that despite these initial advantages, narcissists’ popularity tends to decline over time. The process may take several weeks, perhaps because people with dark personality traits are skilled at keeping their unsavory side hidden. However, since the hallmark of these personality traits is interpersonal exploitation, it is only a matter of time before those closest to them get wise to their ways and start to avoid them. When it comes to long-term relationships, either in fiction or reality, most people shy away from those with dark personality traits. Maybe that’s why in order to sustain our interest over multiple books or movies, that alluring vampire or villain needs to have a heart of gold.

Posted on November 27, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Bonnie – this one is important for understanding the narcissist distortion field: http://narcissistworld.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/narcissists-in-action-why-are-narcissists-so-charming-at-first-sight-decoding-the-narcissism-popularity-link-at-zero-acquaintance/

    Basically, they’ve got the exploitive attitude. It is apparent immediately and works its magic
    Your DTF remarks are right on. If a guy sees a woman is DTF, that gets his attention and raises her value vs others (bird in the hand).

    • Great post! Everyone wants to win but nobody wants to say that because it isn’t romantic. Aggressive personality types just skip the steps that involve the moral song and dance and go right for the prize then we hate them afterwards, like you say: People don’t hate the sin – they hate the sinners that rub them the wrong way. But they sure are sexy during the goings on!

  2. A really great conman (sociopath) will have people liking him so much that even when you know he robbed you, you don’t mind.

    Hey, I hope this isn’t intrusive, but I was wondering what your EQ score is. I put a link to it in the post where I answered your questions: http://narcissistworld.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/question-time/

    I get if you don’t want to share your results, and I don’t mean to pry. I am terribly curious.

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  1. Pingback: Dark Triad « Sociopathology

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