Speed dating study finds narcissists and psychopaths get more dates

Narcissists and psychopaths may have more dating success than others, according to a recent study published in European Journal of Personality.

The study used speed dating to examine the effect of the three “Dark Triad” (DT) personality traits (explained below) on dating.

Narcissism: Tendencies of attention-seeking, charm, vanity, grandiose yet low self-esteem, and a willingness to manipulate others.

Machiavellianism: Coldness, immoral thinking, long-term manipulation, blunt practicality, and hunger for money, success or power.

Psychopathy: antisocial behaviors, thrill-seeking, manipulation and impulsivity.

Despite widely viewed social undesirability, these traits seem to be correlated with success in short-term dating.

“Dark Triad [DT] traits are linked to the pursuit of short-term mating strategies, but they may have differential effects on actual mating success in naturalistic scenarios,” said Emanuel Jauk, corresponding author.

In contrast to DT traits, many of the Big Five personality traits (extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness and neuroticism) have been linked with long-term dating success.

Researchers were also interested in whether physical attractiveness is able to explain the correlations found in previous studies.

The study, conducted at a European university, examined 90 participants aged 18 to 32. First, the participants completed questionnaires to measure DT and Big Five personality traits. Later, they were invited to participate in one of three speed dating events. Throughout the events there were 691 total dates.

After each 3-minute date, participants completed a question card about the potential match. The card included questions about physical attractiveness and personality, as well as a series of statements like “I would like this person for a one-night stand.” Participants rated the statements on a 7-point scale.

Overall, women were rated as more appealing than men for all relationship types that involved sexual contact (“one-night stand,” “booty call,” “friends with benefits” and “long-term relationship”), but were rated less appealing than men for friendships.

Interestingly, long-term relationship interest was found to be negatively reciprocal: that is, a women or men who expressed long-term relationship interest in partners were rated as unattractive long-term relationship matches by those partners.

Researchers found that in women and men, narcissism and psychopathy increased chances of being chosen by a partner for short-term dating. Narcissism also increased the chances of women being chosen for long-term dating. Machiavellianism was correlated with a lower chance of being chosen as a short-term relationship partner.

Scientists also found that one variable in particular had a large effect on the findings–physical attractiveness. Attractiveness by itself was highly correlated with being chosen, especially for women. Physical attractiveness and narcissism were significantly correlated in women, while physical attractiveness and extraversion were significantly correlated in men.

When the researchers controlled for these variables, they found that the link between extraversion and match success for men appeared to be explained by physical attractiveness. On the other hand, controlling for physical attractiveness did not explain the link between narcissism and match success for women—the link remained strong.

The researchers agree that the results are enlightening, but there is more work to be done.

“This study had only three speed dating groups,” said Jauk. “It would be interesting to study frame-of-reference effects using a larger number of groups.”