Notoriously narcissistic and self-obsessed, who on Earth would want to date a psychopath? Well, other psychopaths, obviously.
New research has taken a rare look into the love life of people with psychopathic personality traits and their romantic preferences, as reported in the Journal of Personality. It turns out, despite their high-sky confidence and infamous charisma, psychopaths are actually fairly unattractive to the average non-psychopathic Joe and Joanne, which goes against the whole idea of “opposites attract” commonly touted in psychology research. Equally, when a person with psychopathic personality features is looking for love, they can’t help but fall for someone with a similar lack of empathy and hollow charm.
Psychologists at Emory University in Atlanta surveyed just under 700 people about their own personality and then asked them to construct their ideal mate for either a quick dating fling, a short-term relationship, or a long-term relationship based on 70 different personality characteristics.
Broadly speaking, people with strong psychopathic personalities were not seen as a desirable option for dating, short-term relationships, or long-term relationships. That said, a short but sweet fling was the most preferable option if entering into a relationship with someone who has psychopathic inclinations.
On top of that, male participants appear to be slightly more interested in traits related to psychopathy compared to the female participants.
“When female undergraduates constructed their ideal mate for a dating, short-term, and long-term relationship, their absolute romantic preferences for psychopathic traits were low on average,” the study authors write.
"This accumulating literature suggests that women do not find most psychopathic traits especially appealing, at least in the abstract context of expressed preferences."
It also seems that some psychopathy traits were considered more unattractive than others. Traits such as a lack of guilt and high sense of self-worth, known as Factor 1 psychopathy traits, were generally considered more preferable than traits such as self-centeredness and impulsivity, referred to as Factor 2 psychopathy traits.
The researchers note that their findings might not necessarily translate in the real world. For example, somebody might write on an abstract questionnaire that they find certain psychopathic traits unattractive, yet, in reality, they could act very differently and be a sucker for the infamous charm of a person with psychopathic traits. Nevertheless, as the researchers themselves note, this is a topic of research that remains relatively understudied for the time being.