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The Dark Triad

Hat-tip to the one & only Razib for noticing this fascinating New Scientist report:

"Bad guys really do get the most girls"

"...two studies have confirmed it: bad boys get the most girls. The finding may help explain why a nasty suite of antisocial personality traits known as the 'dark triad' persists in the human population, despite their potentially grave cultural costs...

"The traits are the self-obsession of narcissism; the impulsive, thrill-seeking and callous behavior of psychopaths; and the deceitful and exploitative nature of Machiavellianism...

"...being just slightly evil could have an upside: a prolific sex life, says Peter Jonason at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. 'We have some evidence that the three traits are really the same thing and may represent a successful evolutionary strategy.

"Jonason and his colleagues subjected 200 college students to personality tests designed to rank them for each of the dark triad traits. They also asked about their attitudes to sexual relationships and about their sex lives, including how many partners they'd had...

"The study found that those who scored higher on the dark triad personality traits tended to have more partners...

"James Bond epitomises this set of traits, Jonason says...Just as Bond seduces woman after woman, people with dark triad traits may be more successful with a quantity-style or shotgun approach to reproduction, even if they don't stick around for parenting. 'The strategy seems to have worked. We still have these traits,' Jonason says.

"This observation seems to hold across cultures. David Schmitt of Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, presented preliminary results at the same meeting from a survey of more than 35,000 people in 57 countries. He found a similar link between the dark triad and reproductive success in men..."

So there you have it, gentlemen. It's the narcissistic, psychopathic Machiavellian who gets the girls.

Speaking as a sympathetic observer, from the sidelines, of the amatory struggles of nice straight guys, I must say that all this rings quite true. Back in my days teaching high school, I was continually amazed and appalled by the regularity with which all too many of the (seemingly) smartest and prettiest girls in my classes found themselves fawning over some of the worst and most criminally inclined boys.

Sadly, evolution just does not seem very interested in making good guys happy.

P.S.: The comments thread on Razib's post over at GNXP is, as one might expect, fun and interesting.

Comments (50)

Sadly, these findings fit with my experience growing up. And more sadly still, these trends have led many men to succumb to the practical logic of, "Girls don't like nice guys, so, if I want to get chicks, I'd better be a jerk." Out of frustration and despair I succumbed to that logic myself at one point. But when I became a follower of Jesus I decided that I was going to follow his command to love my neighbor (including women), even if it meant they might be less attracted to me. I also trusted that, in time, God would provide for me a woman that would actually like to be treated well; and he has.

Women can be very stupid about such things, that's for sure. I can't help questioning, though: They are saying that these guys are deceitful but taking their word for how well they are doing sexually? Isn't that a little...naive?

Lydia, yes - so far as I can tell, all this seems to be self-reported, which obviously introduces an element (or two, or three) of doubt.

I wouldn't mind the self-reporting so much if we were talking about something dull, like, "On average, how many cups of coffee do you drink per day?" But when it's a matter of asking guys, esp. guys who are (based on their other reports) supposed to have a "dark triad" of unpleasant personality characteristics, including deceitfulness, what their sex lives are like, I become fairly suspicious of the results.

So... Is this the proof needed to prove women are the seducers of men to do wrong?

"All mild-mannered men are vicious. They hate themselves for being mild and they hate the world because of the strange attraction a violent streak holds for beautiful women." from _Face in the Crowd_, a movie made in the 1950s.

Number of sexual partners is one thing. There is also abundant evidence that happily-married men report better sex lives than single guys of any category.

I agree with Lydia; I'm sceptical that women are most attracted to la beaute du diable, as it is called.

In my experience, women generally seem to be most attracted to men with one of two traits: either the ones with a certain look and comportment (these are generally silent types); or those who are good at talking to women and love to do so. I think the rest of us who lack these two traits (including the evil guys)are pretty much relegated to having to go out and accomplish something in order to impress the really good-looking chicks.

I'm with Lydia - why in the world would we trust the reports of those guys who on their own account are untrustworthy regarding social mores, like maybe truthtelling.

But more generally, when I look into these studies, I usually find highly arbitrary testing methods - arbitrary range limits of defined categories of behavior, arbitrary methods of locating such behaviors, arbitrary choices as to how to classify groups of behaviors ("dark triad" - who is to say that some fourth component not noticed is even MORE significant, or that one of the three only happens to be significant in this 200 person sample?) How in the world did they conclude that college students constitutes an appropriate study limit - maybe the choices of women in college are not carried out into the general population? Or that 200 was a sufficient size for statistically meaningful conclusions?

This is most likely another case of pseudo sciences masquerading as science. Fortunately, a study has shown that 80% of studies are full of BS.

If some men are pigs, then some women are addicted to bacon.

That's not news, of course, even if it's self-reported. We've all seen it repeatedly with our own eyes. The opposite is true as well: Lots of guys like bad girls. That's not news, either. But I'm so glad we have social scientists who might confirm it for us. Who knows what we'd do without them?

Have you seen the latest study? The old have lived longer than the young -- apparently because the old were born a lot earlier. At least that's what the old are reporting. We've crunched the numbers. The old are right.

I had kind of the same reaction as Michael. Isn't this really just an observation that in a skankified culture, skanks fornicate with each other more than non-skanks? It seems like kind of a tautology or almost-tautology, like saying 'thieves acquire more goods illicitly than non-thieves', 'murderers get to kill more of their enemies than non-murderers', etc.

Pace Paul, if the syllogism is supposed to proceed with 'and therefore are happier', well, lets just say it doesn't seem to work out that way in reality. Few things are more pathetic than a thirty-something 'bad boy' living in Mom's basement preying upon (and being preyed upon by) the hookup-for-a-drink set.

The question-begging assumption in the study seems to lie in treating 'women' as a uniform pool of flesh for male consumption, with nary a distinction between the lady and the tramp.

Prof. Bauman - heh. Very funny, and very true. We hardly needed the social scientists (such as they are) to alert us to this curious phenomenon. The artists were there long before them.


I suppose the most interesting aspect of these studies is their attempt to draw a connection to evolutionary theory.

How many ways can one restate the tautology repeated here?

"Study shows good men aren't womanizers" is the briefest version I can think of right now.

Studies about the alleged evolutionary fitness of caddishness need to ask how many living children the cads have fathered. Even Don Giovanni didn't sire 1,003 bastards in Spain.

"Ma in Ispagna son già mille e tre":


José Van Dam as Leporello. It doesn't get much better than that.

Or that 200 was a sufficient size for statistically meaningful conclusions?

There is a formula for calculating the sample size needed for statistically meaningful results, taking into consideration the confidence level, expected deviation, etc., which I assume they used in arriving at the 200 figure. Even that calculation requires making certain assumptions, so grain of salt and all that.

Still, this study does have a certain water is wet quality to it.

I would like to say that in my experience all men have some bad boy flaw. The attraction to the classic bad boy is that he doesn't pretend to be the nice guy. Nice guys are always trying to be nice instead of being themselves. They also have such a high opinion of their wonderful traits that all want a supermodel just for being nice.

...or those who are good at talking to women and love to do so.

With due respect to George R., they have a name for such men -- they're called "homosexuals".

RL, would that not automatically re-classify these so-called "good boys" as only "apparently good boys" instead of the real thing? What about those boys who recognize their defects, admit them, and TRY TO OVERCOME them? They are not hypocrits.

There is an entire cottage industry revolving around "the art of seduction" for men who feel a bit lacking in the bad-boy department and have trouble getting or keeping women. It's built on the premise that the vast majority of women will almost always subconsciously gravitate towards the alpha male type of personality, and that the traits that the alpha male projects can be learned if not naturally present.

A friend of mine who is a college professor studied this whole thing fairly closely and in depth for a class he was teaching on sexuality, and actually met and interviewed one or two men who function as mentors or consultants in this "movement."

"...a college professor studied this whole thing fairly closely and in depth for a class he was teaching on sexuality..."

What's the cost of tuition at his place of "higher learning"?

**What's the cost of tuition at his place of "higher learning"?**

Heh-heh. It's actually a fairly conservative Catholic college in central Pa. He was teaching a class on 'psychology and sexuality' or some such thing, related to a degree in counseling.

With due respect to George R., they have a name for such men -- they're called "homosexuals".

Some men love to talk to women because they are like them; some love to talk to them because they love them.

Well, I find that "those who are good at talking to women and love to do so" are often of that persuasion, and perhaps that is why they are "good at talking to women" and "love to do so" due to such like-mindedness of which you've alluded to in the former.

My wife, Frankie, tells me that one of the biggest turn-offs for her is the wimpy, apologetic, whining, needy groveling girly-man. I found this out when we were dating in the mid-1980s.

In the summer of 1985 Frankie and I began spending a lot of time together. We both attended Vineyard Christian Fellowship, where I taught an adult Sunday School class. I began to really fall for her, and it seemed that she was feeling the same about me. But she was a little nervous. So, before I returned to New York (for PhD studies at Fordham) at summer’s end, she told me that she liked me but that we should be “just friends.” Although I was devastated, the blow was cushioned by what I had read in Dr. James Dobson’s 1983 book, Love Must be Tough, which Frankie had recommended to me weeks earlier. She apparently knew that Dr. Dobson could offer me insights that would help me understand her. He suggested that in situations such as mine, the worst thing that a man could do is grovel and plead for a woman’s affection like some pouting puppy dog. Taking Dr. Dobson’s advice, I did not contact Frankie for six weeks after my return to New York. It was initially difficult, but as the days wore on the pain of rejection dissipated. In fact, after those six weeks I began to share with “my friend” Frankie about women that I had met at Fordham, including an attractive Puerto Rican doctoral student in sociology with whom I went to church several Sundays in a row. A few days later after I had shared this with my “close friend” Frankie, she sent me a hand-written letter in which she explained that her affection for me was more than that of mere friendship. By August 1986 we were engaged. We were married the next July.

Bad boy gets the girl, and keeps her (for 21 years this July 11)!!

Although I was devastated, the blow was cushioned by what I had read in Dr. James Dobson’s 1983 book, Love Must be Tough...

Is this the same Dobson that Obama mentions in:

"Even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools?" Obama said. "Would we go with James Dobson's or Al Sharpton's?"

Dobson accuses Obama of 'distorting' Bible

Frank, if that's your idea of being "bad," I don't think you have too much to worry about.

Tony, you do have a point. They could be bad boys masquerading as good boys.

I've found that 'bad boys' often tend to be wimps, and more than a little pathetic when faced with real adversity. But it is entirely possible that in today's 'therapeutic' environment, a 'bad boy' is the closet thing a girl can find to an actual, you know, man. Men and ladies both tend to be in short supply, in general.

Well game theory is gradually expanding beyond the badboy paradigm. Mystery method has been the dominant seductive technique of the past decade, and certainly incorporates aspects of the badboy, like the infamous neg-hit. But it is gradually being overtaken by a more natural approach, lead by the Art of Charm. Their ideal ladies man is a 'Ten', loosely the nicest, most open person you can be, who treats EVERYBODY the same, and gets the girl almost as a byproduct of their natural friendliness, the best example being Bill Murray at the end of Groundhog Day.

I'm interested in this "dark triad". Does anyone know if it is present in most criminals, or just the worst?

I'm also very relieved to find out I'm on the opposite side of the Triad, and managed to be in love with a wife who seems quite attached to me. That's one in the eye for Darwin!

Graham Veale

I'm interested in this "dark triad". Does anyone know if it is present in most criminals, or just the worst?

I'm also very relieved to find out I'm on the opposite side of the Triad, and managed to be in love with a wife who seems quite attached to me. That's one in the eye for Darwin!

Graham Veale

What demographic is this article aimed at? It seems to say; If you're a stupid woman you want the assholes of society to degrade, lie, cheat and humiliate you in every way, but hey, it's okay because there's always the sex to fall back on. Clubbing twenty-somethings will no doubt eat up this article's pseudo-science as fact and then wonder why they can't find a meaningful relationship.

I think there should be a mixture of good and evil in a man. He should know when and where to use these skills. Girls will come eventually no doubt.

It seems the attraction many women have to the badboy may be more about the need for "game" or "role/script" playing, with a clear 'payoff' at the end of the transaction. To subdue a 'badboy' may be compared to the thrill of breaking a stallion, sculpting a masterpiece or the need for dominance. All of them carry a need to subdue, win or gain something. Maximum payoffs depend on the skill of the players and many 'lose' until they either perfect the game or abandon it. Children need to play.

I really am enjoying this back and forth but in the end you will all find that it really doesn't mean a thing. Once you finally find your life partner and really begin living, you will look back on this youthful discourse, chuckle, and wish you could return to its innocent existence.

High testosterone levels are apparently associated with higher levels of aggression. Perhaps what women are attracted to (from an evolutionary standpoint) is the testosterone (and not the bad stuff, such as violence that accompanies it). Possibly there is some advantage to having children whose father has high levels of testosterone, and women are subconsciously drawn to such men or find them sexually attractive, while also finding them unfit to be fathers, husbands or long-term partners. It doesn't make the women stupid - just human beings, driven by the same biological programming that men and women have been stumbling over for centuries (look at the powerful, intelligent, successful politician who throws it all away for a tacky, illicit relationship with a bimbo.) Blaming people is not the answer. Understanding, accepting and eventually overcoming our residual primal behaviours is the answer, and the hope for humanity's future. If we can purge ourselves of all the unlovely urges - rage, violence, hatred, fear, lust - that ensured our survival as cavedwellers, maybe we might just have a future on this planet.

While what L. McMillan says undoubtedly has a measure of truth to it, I'd argue, from the other side, that women who repeatedly choose the "bad boy" (up to the point of being exploited and abused by him) almost always have deep-seated self-image problems. You rarely see a smart, self-confident woman with a fair measure of self-esteem choose the bad boy; odds are if she does, her self-confidence isn't really based on self-esteem, but on the opposite, like those cretins who drive loud, gigantic pick-up trucks with rubber testicles hanging from the back bumper. Different manifestation -- same inherent self-esteem problem.

Studies not only show that married couples reportedly have better sex lives, but have sex, on average, more times than single men in a year.

Moreover, the extreme of a "bad boy" would not stick around to take care of any kids that pop out of their female partners, lowering the child's chances of good education, healthy up-bringing, and general survival. The price of living is going up, which means that single mothers are getting less and less effective to raise a child.

Social psychological studies also provide many points that disprove "bad boys" having an evolutionary advantage.

I think there are too many factors to be considered before jumping to conclusion that "nice guys finish last". You cannot take one (perhaps faulty) experiment to come to a conclusion.

Since when is James Bond a psychopath?

I don't trust any research that Dr. Jonason does. As a former student of his, he is completely unethical, unprofessional. He lacks an understanding of women; he is a misogynist. In class, he said things like, "women should only think what I want them to." He gave us surveys that were clearly touting his own viewpoint. He is biased in his research because he wants to be like James Bond. He talked about James Bond quite a lot, and said he wanted to be like him.

'Bad boys' are attractive because they bring out instinctual behaviour in women that is often repressed.
Take the suited repressed man and compare him with the rock star type with long hair. The former is probably using so much control and conformity to survive that he seems somewhat automated and lacking in passion and orginality. To some women this can be a bit uninspiring. They seek a man who touches them deeply in the psyche and soul. Language and outlook become over socialised and shaped by society. He loses touch with his instincts to such an extent that some men forget how to be a person. We often have to become like this to survive. The latter is in touch with his instincts is exciting, enthralling and considered to be free, unneurotic but often unreliable and can be a user. But his wildness and freedom from convention and rules makes him so attractive that he sparkles and probably simply arouses more powerful sexual instincts in women easier. By not allowing society to over socialise him. But he lacks stability and commitment so many women get burned. For creative women, they are a source of inspiration. The dark triad components of having High Machaivellian traits, with psychopathy and narcissim means a man gets what he wants rather than being empathic and giving.
This can ensure survival in a capitalist society where lets face, all the wrong traits are often valued. It's just one form of survival. We are all only four meals away from anarchy. But a creative man may make creative children, with a larger spectrum of behaviours who will be more adaptable and more likely to survive.

They can't keep quality women. Of course, they get more women - because they pursue more women, trying to fool as many people as possible. They might want to marry heiresses with son-less fathers who will hand them the keys to the corporate kingdom - doesn't mean they succeed. This article is skewed because it doesn't say that ultimately the dark triad types are successful in life.

Uh, the Dark Triad is not a problem. It's a good thing. It's you moralizing, cowardly herd animals that ruin things for people who aren't cowards and idiots.

Fuck your altruist propaganda.

Huh, people who do not express the dark triad traits are cowards and idiots? The above comment reminds me of "what are ya, chicken?"

The many different points of view regard this said dark triad, would largely depend on ones own neurology or hard wiring.

Those men and women who express the triad, including those with an ADHD expression, with an accompanying drive toward activity, have accompanying physically robust bodies and generally greater fitness, would be biased, and view honesty as sheeplike.

Similarly those who are 'good boys', will still mate and procreate, not because they are cowards and idiots, but because their expression is compatible with 'good girls'

You cant please all of the people all of the time.

Survival of the fittest, would give preference to a middle ground, with both the nice guy and the bad boy being somewhat unbalanced expressions of an ideal type that sits in the middle.

This is mostly nonsense. Other folks have covered why this "study" is flawed (namely, the self-reporting), so I think we all agree it's a silly way to test the "success" of these men other than what they think of themselves (or hope to project onto others). I don't think terms like "nice guys" or "bad boys" are very helpful because they are rather ambiguous. They are also loaded terms; they impart some sort of moral judgement. I think here the divide between Alpha, Beta & Omega males is more helpful. I want to draw a parallel between the dating game and investment trading, where for quite some time this schism between the various types of male has played out. And it's clear that even in such a winner-takes-all (supposedly testosterone-fuelled) environment, the Beta male with a high level of skill/knowledge is the clear winner of the 3. The supposedly "intuitive" branch of investing with the great sales personalities and hard-pushing honchos have been replaced by these skilled, socially-awkward (considered as such) and highly logical technocrats. I feel something similar is happening in the dating game as we push to that limit (of it being a winner-takes-all game). The skilled Beta males always win out, because they have the right balance of abilities and social awkwardness where they can ignore society's norms and innovate. I've often heard it said women don't like logical men, as they themselves are emotional. Consider the converse. Do women like emotional men? Thought not. Those highly sensitive fellas don't get laid anymore thanks to all their wimpering. Women adore logical men. It's just that often men that can't see that are thinking with their hearts rather than themselves thinking rationally. I could go on and on with this analogy and explain my point further but honestly it would take more space up than I think this place could handle. Fascinating to me how peculiar people's takes are on this issue, though.

This theory is really fabulous and helpful to so many people.Because wahatever the explained is really true.The bad boys are dangerous and they think about thier enjoyment and ofcourse they are money-oriented mostly..in india this is happening,so dat u people think watz going on in out-countries..For bad boys they know very well that how to touch womenz heart..

and also they try to maintain short-term relationships always..
"nice girls" may be the only females who tolerate the bad boys personality, forgiving these naughty boys and inadvertently giving them yet another chance to misbehave.

So beaware of these type of guys..

Sadly, these findings fit with my experience growing up. And more sadly still, these trends have led many men to succumb to the practical logic of, "Girls don't like nice guys, so, if I want to get chicks, I'd better be a jerk." Out of frustration and despair I succumbed to that logic myself at one point. But when I became a follower of Allah I decided that I was going to follow his command to love my neighbor (including women), even if it meant they might be less attracted to me. I also trusted that, in time, Allah would provide for me a woman that would actually like to be treated well; and he has.

@ Jubayer

You made me laugh, this must one of the most stupid comments I read on blogs in the recent time.

I would just like to point out some misinformation that appears to be going through these comments. Firstly, the article does not suggest that bad guys get good girls, people that read the article in this fashion are lazy. It suggests that individuals higher on the dark triad would be more likley to pursue a short term mating stratergy and that is is stronger in mates. so both males and females higher on the dark triad are self reporting more sexual encounters. I would speculate that it appears more likely that "bad people" are humping each other more then anything else. This is not a bad guys get good girls debate, that is a lazy conclusion to bring from the article, which also demonstrates that females higher on the dark traid pursue the same stratergy.

Also the digs at self-report findings are also misinformed. A number of studies have demonstrated that individuals higher on these taits don't lie particularly well on self-report scales.