New research indicates that higher levels of certain “dark” personality traits are associated with seeking short-term mating more and long-term mating less. Persons with pronounced “light” personality traits showed an opposite tendency. The study was published in Interpersona, an International Journal of Personal Relationships.
“In recent years, the use of online dating websites and applications, as well as social media platforms, has seen a surge in popularity as people look for romantic and/or sexual partners,” explained study author Ljubisa Bojić, a research fellow and coordinator of the Digital Society Lab at the Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory at the University of Belgrade.” “For many, these platforms have become an invaluable tool in the search for a compatible partner. With the ability to search for potential partners from a wide range of backgrounds and interests, it is no surprise that these digital tools have become so popular.”
“More specifically, I was interested in this topic because I wanted to explore the role of personality traits in the context of online dating. I was particularly interested in how the Dark Tetrad traits and Light Triad traits, which are not usually seen as opposites, are related to mating strategies.”
Dark Tetrad traits consist of Machiavellianism (characterized by superficial charm, cynicism, coldness, manipulativeness, opportunism, belief that ends justify the means), narcissism (characterized by vanity, grandiosity, dominance, superiority, and entitlement), psychopathy (characterized by thrill-seeking, aggressiveness, impulsivity, criminality, low fear and anxiety, callousness, and limited empathy), and sadism (characterized by experiencing feelings of pleasure in connection with inflicting verbal and/or physical harm to other people).
On the other hand, Light Triad traits consist of faith in humanity (defined by the belief in the fundamental goodness of humans), humanism (characterized by valuing dignity and the worth of every person), and Kantianism (characterized by treating people as “ends unto themselves, not as mere means to an end”).
“I consider this a step towards my next research endeavors, in which our teams assess an AI-based language model for text generation and interaction, OpenAI’s GPT-3, from a psychological perspective in terms of consciousness, personality traits, and intelligence,” Bojić said. “I consider all these topics very important because of the increasing importance AI and media use have in our lives. The other thing we will do at the Digital Society Lab is assess how VR technologies impact society and individuals. This relates to the future of mating strategies, so I regard this as very important.”
According to evolutionary theory, humans use complex mating strategies that can be divided into short-term and long-term mating strategies. These strategies were first seen as opposite poles of a more broad trait of sociosexuality, which is defined as “a willingness to engage in sexual intercourse without closeness and commitment.” However, recent studies have indicated that short- and long-term mating strategies might actually be independent strategies.
Previous studies have indicated that these groups of traits are associated with sociosexuality. But how are they associated with the pursuit of short-term and long-term mating strategies?
To answer this question, the researchers conducted an online survey that included 216 participants who reported using “mobile dating applications, dating websites, and social media for finding a romantic and/or sexual partner in the past year.” Participants were recruited via social networks and by asking participants to share or recommend further survey participants. Around 75% of the participants were females and 84% reported being heterosexual.
Participants completed assessments of the Dark Tetrad personality traits, the Light Triad personality traits, short-term mating orientation, and long-term mating orientation.
Results showed that Tinder was the most frequently used for finding a romantic and/or sexual partner, with 33.4% of participants reporting using it. The other two most commonly used websites were Facebook (19.6%) and Instagram (18.2%).
When personality traits were considered, the researchers found that people showing greater pursuit of short-term mating strategies tended to have higher narcissism, psychopathy and sadism, but lower faith in humanity and Kantianism. On the other hand, people more oriented towards long-term mating strategies tended to have lower psychopathy and sadism, but higher levels of faith in humanity, humanism and Kantianism, i.e., all three Light Triad traits were more pronounced.
“The average person should take away from our study that personality traits play an important role in determining mating strategies,” Bojić told PsyPost. “In particular, the Dark Tetrad traits of narcissism, psychopathy, and sadism are associated with short-term mating, while the Light Triad traits of faith in humanity, humanism, and Kantianism are associated with long-term mating.”
Interestingly, the researchers also found low to moderate strength relationships between Dark Tetrad traits and Light Triad traits.
“Something that surprised me in our findings was that the correlations between the Dark Tetrad and Light Triad traits were not simply opposites, as was previously thought,” Bojić added. “The correlations remained even after controlling for sex, which suggests that these traits interact in complex ways.”
The study highlights the utility of the Dark Tetrad and the Light Triad personality traits in mating orientation research. However, it also has limitations that need to be taken into account. Notably, the sample of participants was relatively small and overwhelmingly female. The study did not take into account possible changes of mating strategies over time and it also focused on the online dating context.
“One major caveat of this study is that it was conducted with a relatively small sample size,” Bojić said. “Additionally, the sample was not representative of the general population, as all participants had used online dating sites and apps in the past year. Future research should aim to address these issues.”
“I would like to add that this study highlights the importance of considering both the Dark Tetrad and Light Triad traits when studying mating strategies in the context of online dating,” he added. “Understanding these traits and their interactions can help us better understand how people navigate the online dating environment.”
The study, “The Battle Between Light and Dark Side of Personality: How Light and Dark Personality Traits Predict Mating Strategies in the Online Context”, was authored by Lana Tucaković, Ljubiša Bojić, and Nemanja Nikolić.