We all love a bad boy, right? They are the exciting, unpredictable, alluring and mysterious men that we find attractive. I mean, who wants a cardigan and slippers guy when you can be swept off your feet by a charming seducer? But hang on a minute, what’s so wrong with a lovely, caring man? Someone who will cherish and protect you? A man who puts your needs first and above their own? Why is that considered boring to some women? Why do we find psychopath traits in males so alluring?
Origins of Psychopath Traits in Males
Bad Boys in Films
Hollywood has played on the bad boy image for decades. Actually, you only have to think back to Clark Cable in ‘Gone with the Wind‘, James Dean in ‘Rebel Without a Cause‘ and Marlon Brando in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire‘.
Fast forward to today and our modern-day equivalents include Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter, Tom Hiddleston as Loki or Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman. Or in fact, anyone playing James Bond.
Similarly, actors with a bad boy image are equally as interesting. Oliver Reed, Robert Downey Jr, Colin Farrell, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Johnny Depp, and Mark Wahlberg. So what is it about these dark traits that women find attractive?
Psychopaths are charming, persuasive and manipulative. Therefore, we are charmed when we first meet one. Likewise, psychopaths make us feel special. Their attention is excessive. We bathe in their spotlight. These exciting individuals have chosen us mere mortals to shine their attention on. We are the chosen ones and feel special.
Then they withdraw. They disappear for days. We have lost this contact. Then this special feeling turns into despair, longing, and withdrawal. And this where it gets interesting. It is this withdrawal that keeps us hooked, literally and psychologically.
The continual giving and withdrawing attention is what attracts us. In fact, it strengthens our feelings and makes males with psychopath traits seem even more attractive.
Studies Reveal Why We Find Males with Psychopath Traits Attractive
If you are one of the people thinking this is ridiculous, it might help to think of how the brain copes with withdrawal. It’s all to do with dopamine and the pleasure centre in the brain.
Dopamine and Withdrawal
When we engage in positive experiences, dopamine floods into our brain. Dopamine is the happy hormone. It is released whenever we eat delicious food, have great sex, receive amazing compliments, or get positive attention.
If these experiences are repeated and reinforced, this neurotransmitter then makes connections. It creates reward circuits. These circuits make automatic associations in our brains. They instantly flare up when we anticipate a particular behaviour or person.
However, studies have shown that dopamine works best when the reinforcements are intermittent. When the experiences are constant, the dopamine does not flow as well. This is the ‘frustration-attraction’ dilemma. It means that obstacles in the relationship are actually fuelling the attraction.
As a result, our brains are programmed to find men with psychopath traits attractive. Simply because their behaviour is unpredictable.
“The point about bad boys is that they’re not all bad. When they’re charming, they’re very, very charming. Their goodness becomes an addiction.” Virginia Ironside, The Independent Agony Aunt
Psychopaths are not capable of focusing their attention on others. By their very nature, their narcissism and self-centredness won’t allow them to put others first. They are masters of frustration-attraction.
Psychopath Traits in Males Include:
- Lack of empathy
- Risky behaviour
Consequently, we are left, much like a drug addict, searching for our next hit. We are desperate for time with our toxic partner. This is because our brain has made an association with the unsuitable partner.
When we think about them, we get a pang of withdrawal. We need our dopamine rush. This keeps us invested in the relationship. Whether it is good for us or not.
In another study, 128 female undergraduates were given two descriptions of male characters; men with Dark Triads and a control. The study included high psychopath traits in males taken from the Psychopathy Scale III, the Narcissistic Personality Inventory and the Mach-IV.
High Psychopath Male Traits include:
- Lack of remorse
- Desire for attention
- No morality
- Charming others
- Need for prestige
The traits in the study did not include the dark psychopath traits in males.
Participants had to rate the attractiveness on a scale of 1-6. The results showed that the females found dark traits more attractive than the control. But why?
The first reason is sexual selection. Researchers believe that the higher psychopath dark traits in males indicate a ‘masculine quality‘ unique to male sexuality. For example, traits like confidence, risk-taking and charm. These are all associated with sexual prowess.
In fact, these particular dark traits are linked to increased sexual activity and success in males. There is a connection between one-night stands and this type of male.
The second reason is sexual conflict. Women find men who can sell themselves especially attractive. These are the charmers and the manipulators. The ones that can keep you hooked over time. These types don’t necessarily score highly when it comes to sexual prowess. However, they do manage to maintain multiple partners.
Males with psychopath traits might attract us in the first instance. However, studies do show that women find altruistic males more attractive in the long term. So while you might be instantly drawn to that bad boy, the chances are you will end up marrying the good guy.
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