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Study Reveals Why We All Love People That Are Bad For Us

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Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

3674 Study Reveals Why We All Love People That Are Bad For Us
Bokstaz/Shutterstock

Nice guys finish last” is a saying that’s bandied about a lot these days. The implication is that only the “bad boys” or “bad girls,” those with deviant personalities and darker outlooks on life, get the partner they’re after. Although it seems counterintuitive that the more neurotic and impulsive you are, the more likely you are to have more sexual partners, a new study published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior seems to back this up.

The study focused on a variety of heterosexual men and women aged 16 to 67, analyzing their various pathological personality traits – extreme mental and physical behavioral disorders – ranging in severity from non-existent to medically diagnosable. The 959 subjects were all asked detailed questions relating to their relationship history, the number of children they had, their job type and income, educational level, and other socioeconomic factors. Of particular interest were the traits of neuroticism, obsessive-compulsiveness, and impulsiveness.

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The findings reveal that both males and females who were pathologically reckless – those who acted without much thought or care – attracted far more short-term partners than participants with “average” personalities, as in those who did not show pronounced pathological traits.

A divergence between the sexes was noted when it comes to obsessive-compulsive disorders: Males, not females, were more successful at securing long-term mates. This was strongly related to the high income that obsessive-compulsive males tended to earn – twice as much as the less obsessive, according to the authors of the study. “From a Darwinian viewpoint, money means survival, safeness and resources for the children. They are also serious, reliable and cautious,” Fernando Gutiérrez at the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona, who led the research, told Scientific American.

Image credit: Obsessive-compulsive males and neurotic females have an advantage in the dating game. oneinchpunch/Shutterstock

Don’t worry: If you’re a female and looking for a long-term partner, don’t fret – just be neurotic. The study reveals that the most neurotic female subjects managed to gain 34 percent more long-term mates and 73 percent more children than average.

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Impulsive males and females were also shown to have an increased number of short-term partners on average. “While [risk-takers] are selfish, rule-breaking, imprudent and rebellious, they are also brave, temerarious, independent and self-reliant—and they live frantic, galvanizing lives,” Gutiérrez said. “This captivates many people.”

The study, of course, has its limitations: It’s worth highlighting that the study involved a relatively small number of participants in just one city, Barcelona, and people often lie about their sexual history. “This may be especially true for individuals whose personality characteristics make them prone to dishonesty,” Corinna E. Löckenhoff, a human developmental psychologist at Cornell University who was not involved with the study, told Scientific American.

The authors note that, contrary to traditional opinions on the subject, personality disorders may have evolved in humans as a form of social and sexual strategy, as opposed to developing as a disadvantageous illness – this study appears to agree with this to some degree.

A recent personality study on a variety of cat species reveals that the domestic cat and the African lion are both neurotic, impulsive, mercurial control-freaks – coincidentally, the same traits this study deem to be beneficial in terms of gaining sexual partners, so perhaps our feline friends are on to something.


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healthHealth and Medicine
  • tag
  • evolution,

  • sex,

  • mating,

  • female,

  • male,

  • pathological,

  • reckless,

  • impulsive

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