Research examines the (short-term) sexiness of narcissism

NarcissusNarcissistic individuals are viewed as sexy thanks to their physical attractiveness and social boldness, research published in the July issue of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin has found.

“In summary, the present findings suggest that there is a truth in the ancient Greek myth: At least in the short-run, individuals like Narcissus tend to be desired not only by themselves, but indeed also by ‘legions of lusty men and bevies of girls,'” the researchers concluded in their study.

“A positive link between narcissism and mate appeal has been postulated by numerous theoretical positions,” the lead author of the study, Michael Dufner of the Humboldt University of Berlin, told PsyPost. “This research shows that narcissists are indeed appealing to members of the opposite sex in a naturalistic setting.”

“The research also informs the reasons for narcissists’ appeal,” he explained. “Narcissists are physically attractive (which is most likely due to the fact that they put more effort into their physical appearance) and socially bold (which seems to be due to the fact that they think very highly of themselves and therefore do not fear rejection).”

Narcissism is a personality trait characterized by boastfulness, an inflated self-esteem, and selfishness. Narcissistic individuals generally report having an easy time obtaining dates and claim to have a high number of sexual partners. However, Dufner and his colleagues wondered whether narcissists were exaggerating their successes due to their oversized egos.

Their study found narcissists actually were sexy in general. People rated narcissistic individuals as more desirable romantic partners when viewing a fake narcissism questionnaire. Close friends of narcissists reported that they were more appealing as romantic partners than as friends, mainly due to their physically attractiveness and because they exhibited social boldness.

Dufner and his colleagues also investigated whether narcissism was predictive of dating outcomes in a naturalistic setting. The researchers had 61 single heterosexual male participants complete a measure of narcissism. These men then casually approached a number of unacquainted women on the street and asked for their personal contact information.

Men who scored higher on the narcissism measure obtained more personal contacts on average. They were also rated as more appealing by these women in a post-experiment follow-up.

There is an important caveat regarding the sexiness of narcissists. Though they make a great first impression, the more you know them, the less sexy they become.

“Our research only addressed short-term mate appeal. Other research suggests that narcissists are terrible as long-term romantic partners,” Dufner said.

The study was co-authored by John F. Rauthmann, Anna Z. Czarna and Jaap J. A. Denissen.