Why Psychopaths Can Be So Attractive, Psychologists Say

The old cliché that psychopaths are soft-spoken charmers may not be far from the truth, at least according to a new study.

The study by psychologists from Brock University and Carleton University in Canada claims that young women are more attracted to men with stronger psychopathic personality traits, despite the lack of interest from these potential partners for a committed relationship.

Published in the journal Evolutionary Psychological Science the researchers wanted to follow up on “reports” that psychopathic traits were attractive in potential romantic partners, despite the known pitfalls of being in relationships with psychopaths.

For the first part of their study, the researchers recruited 46 men, aged 17 to 25, and assessed psychopathy and social intelligence using a fake date scenario filmed with an assistant during about 2 minutes. According to the study, the majority of male participants (89%) identified themselves as heterosexual.

Men were asked questions like “what do you like to do on a first date?” or “What do you think is most important in a relationship?” », then conservation happened naturally.

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The male participants also completed assessments of psychopathy, social intelligence, and sociosexuality (their tendency to engage in noncommittal sex).

The videos were then shown to 108 young women (in their first or second year at university), the majority of whom self-identified as heterosexual (89%), who were asked to rate each boy in terms of attractiveness general, sexual attraction and confidence. Meanwhile, 11 other women received photographs of the men and were asked to rate them based on their physical attractiveness.

They found that young men with stronger psychopathic traits tended to have higher social intelligence and more relaxed attitudes toward casual sex. Members of the opposite sex also found men with more psychopathic traits more attractive, even after controlling for physical attractiveness ratings.


Given what we know about people with psychopathic tendencies, this is perhaps surprising. Psychopathy is one of the original “Dark Triad” personality traits, alongside Machiavellianism and Narcissism, although other traits that fall under the umbrella include selfishness, meanness, self-interest , moral disengagement and physiological law.

While these don’t necessarily appear to be attractive qualities at first glance, researchers say people with these traits seem to possess other traits that make them desirable, especially when it comes to a close relationship.

However, the study only looked at the attractiveness to most heterosexual women of men with psychopathic tendencies. It is unclear whether men find women with psychopathic traits attractive and the same with same-sex couples.


“Psychopathic men have a personality that makes them attractive to women when met in love. Maybe it’s because they’re more confident or feel comfortable or know exactly what to say to get women’s attention,” lead author Kristopher J. Brazil told PsyPost .

“Further research needs to be done on this, but whatever the reason, our research shows that psychopathic traits certainly do not appear to be ‘a mental disorder’ as mainstream clinical approaches assume.

There’s something about this personality style that can provide individual benefits, which makes us think it’s not a disorder.

Why Psychopaths Can Be So Attractive, Psychologists Say