A new psychology study has found evidence that people with pathological personality traits tend to be more interested in casual sex. The findings appear in The Journal of Sex Research.
“There is a considerable amount of research on how ‘normal’ personality traits relate to various aspects of sex and relationship preferences, but there is much less on how ostensible pathologies of personality relate to them,” said study author Peter Karl Jonason of Western Sydney University.
“The work that does exist is limited by sample size, a narrow range of traits under investigation, and a tendency to pathologize sex. We wanted to (1) provide a more robust account of this important area of research and human existence and (2) do so with a paradigm — evolutionary psychology — that does not make moral judgments about the kinds of relationships people wish to engage in.”
The researchers surveyed 702 undergraduate students regarding their pathological personality traits, life history, and sociosexuality. They found that people with more pathological personality traits tended to also be more sociosexually unrestricted, meaning they were more interested in casual sex.
“Generally speaking, people with personality pathologies are interested in casual sex more than serious relationships,” Jonason told PsyPost.
“Men are more interested in casual sex than women are and women are more interested in long-term relationships than men are, but the sexes do not differ in the amount prior sexual experiences they have had.”
“These sex differences are partially driven by personality pathologies, such that antagonistic and disinhibited men report an enhanced interested in casual sex whereas neurotic (i.e., high negative affect) women report more interest in long-term relationships,” Jonason explained.
“Importantly, these effects (and more) appear to be a function of what is called, someone’s life history speed, which is how they express tradeoffs between long-term, prosocial interests and short-term, selfish interests; a variable of prime importance in modern evolutionary psychology derived from the robust evolutionary biology and behavioral ecology literatures.”
According to life history theory, early life experiences can shape an individual’s behavior toward relationships and life in general.
Those faced with unpredictable childhoods develop a fast life strategy that emphasizes insecure attachments, immediate gratification, and risky behaviors. Those with a more stable childhood, on the other hand, develop a slow life strategy that emphasizes long-term goals, greater investments, and reduced aggression.
However, the study has some limitations.
“The most important caveats are related. Because the data is cross-sectional, we cannot know if the order we propose is best. For instance, it is possible, albeit unlikely based on theory, that certain sexual behaviors lead to these pathological personality traits,” Jonason told PsyPost.
“It would be far superior to do some sort of manipulation, but manipulating people into disorders would be unethical and if we could easily change people’s pathologies with some experimental treatment this would be a boon for clinical practice. As such, all we can say is that there are associations here and interpret them through the theoretical lense of life history theory to understand them,” he added.
“There are several subsequent questions that we would like researchers to look into like the relationships between personality pathologies and mate preferences, other measures relevant to relationship research like love styles, examine alternative mediators of both life history speed, but also, social strategies like competitive, individualistic, or prosocial orientations, and further examine the quasi-causal nature of childhood conditions in creating the patterns we detected using multivariate analyses like path analysis.”
The study, “Love, Sex, and Personality Pathology: A Life History View of Personality Pathologies and Sociosexuality”, was authored by Peter K. Jonason, Virgil Zeigler-Hill, and Talia Hashmani.