Dating/Mating and the Dark Triad Traits: Narcissism, Psychopathy and Machiavellianism


These traits are characterized by

  • entitlement,
  • superiority,
  • dominance (i.e., narcissism),
  • glib social charm,
  • deceit,
  • manipulativeness (i.e., Machiavellianism),
  • erratic,
  • antisocial behavior,
  • impulsivity
  • interpersonal antagonism (i.e., psychopathy)
  • {probably also inappropriate physical aggression/bullying}

The mating psychology associated with these traits tends to be short-term in nature in both sexes…There appears to be a mating advantage for men characterized by these traits, at least in the short-term, and women may benefit from having these trait through gene capturing… It is clear that individuals do form relationships with people who are characterized by traits like sensation-seeking , antisocial behavior, and the Dark Triad traits.

It is unclear, however, whether the tendencies associated with the Dark Triad traits such as aggression, social dominance, competitiveness, and a need to be ‘‘number 1’’ will diminish relationship stability thereby decreasing reproductive success in both sexes, or whether dating, especially in the short-term, a likeminded other who enjoys a drama-filled life, thriving on the excitement of risk-taking, drug use, and alcohol consumption is preferable. Indeed, there is evidence in support of the former.

Men may pay fewer costs and reap more benefits for engaging in risk-taking, including short-term
mating which is associated with the Dark Triad traits.  Psychopathy may facilitate the most exploitive form of mating among the Dark Triad traits, possibly accompanied by cognitive distortions that lead them to mistake a partner who is ‘‘good fun’’ for a ‘‘good mom’’.

In contrast, narcissism in men may be accompanied with an implicit desire to reproduce (i.e., ‘‘I am so great I should make copies of me’’), and consequently be attuned to who would be a good mother, thereby seeing similar women as potential mothering risks and undesirable marriage partners.  Indeed, narcissism appears to be linked to a more opportunistic than an exploitive mating strategy and is the most socially desirable and sensitive aspect of the Dark Triad.

Young women (like our sample) may have a preference for ‘‘bad boys’’ as embodied in these traits.  This preference might not necessarily be a function of psychopathology, but instead, an effect whereby young women who are characterized by these traits are simply not entertained sufficiently by men who are not also high on these traits.  This should translate into these women seeing men who are high on the Dark Triad traits—not men likely to commit or to be particularly good long-term investments—as attractive partners, globally.  That is, the Dark Triad traits in young women may actually create cognitive distortions in how they evaluate risk in the context of mating, making them believe that sexy ‘‘cads’’ would not only be good for tonight but is the kind of man who would still be there in the morning.

Machiavellianism in women was associated ratings men who were characterized as Machiavellian as good future marriage partners. The correlation between women’s psychopathy scores and ratings of the physical attractiveness, desirability as a marriage partner, and quality as a father for high psychopathy advertisements was significantly greater than the low psychopathy advertisement.

And last, men high in psychopathy felt target-women high in psychopathy would be good mother and marriage partner.

Narcissism in men correlated with lower scores, and in women, with higher scores when rating narcissist advertisements as marriage partners.  Further, narcissism in men was related to rating high advertisements as less desirable mothers, and in women, as more desirable fathers.

In this study… both sexes found advertisements with low levels of the traits more desirable as spouses, and advertisements with high levels of the traits as more desirable one-night stand partners…Interestingly, however, people felt those high in psychopathy and Machiavellianism were less attractive than those low in
the traits…in women, psychopathy correlated with greater liking of men high on psychopathy in both long and short-term relationships. It is possible that women who are high in these traits mistake ‘‘sexy cads’’ for ‘‘good dads’’. Such cognitive distortions have been previously found, during ovulation, when women have increased sex-drive and a desire for masculinized partners

Similarly, men high in psychopathy also rated high psychopathy advertisements as desirable mothers.  As it is likely that a man high on psychopathy will simply abandon his children, he may need to believe that she will be a good mother even when evidence is lacking.

Someone characterized by the Dark Triad traits may enjoy excitement, volatility, drug use, and alcohol and, thus, may prefer partners who live a similar lifestyle as they do.


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