A recent study has shown that narcissistic men — guys who have an exaggerated sense of entitlement and an unrealistically positive self-image — are considered sexier by women. At least in the short-term.
To demonstrate this, German psychologist Michael Dufner performed a rather interesting experiment. He recruited 61 male heterosexual men and paid them 35 euros to approach at least 25 women they would “genuinely like to know” and ask them for their contact information.
Prior to this, the men were assessed for their narcissistic tendencies. Now, to be clear, the researchers did not include guys with full-on narcissistic personality disorder. These were, for the most part, ordinary men — each of whom exhibited varying degrees of narcissism.
In addition, the women were asked to rate the man’s appeal by stating whether they liked the man, being chatted up by him, and felt attracted to him. Undergrads were recruited to assess each man’s physical attractiveness. The researchers also watched the exchanges take place to rate the social boldness of each encounter.
HealthDay reporter Kathleen Doheny tells us what happened:
On average, the men approached about 23 women. To rule out the possibility that the more narcissistic men were more selective in who they approached, the researchers analyzed each woman who was approached on her physical attractiveness and manner of dress. The narcissists weren't more selective.
The narcissistic guys did get the girl more often. The higher the level of narcissism, the more likely they were to get more contacts.
"The effect was not due to high self-esteem, but indeed the narcissism," Dufner said. The physical attractiveness and social boldness of the narcissists were the two likely reasons for their appeal to women, he said.
What’s more, the higher their narcissistic admiration, the more appealing the women found them to be.
Psychologist Susan Krauss Whitbourne offers her perspective on the study:
The “correlation does not equal causation” alarm must surely be going off in your head. It’s impossible to tell whether the charming narcissists were charming because they’re attractive or charming because they’re socially bold. Does attractiveness create a psychological environment in which narcissism flourishes or do narcissists only seem attractive because they value looking good? In terms of a theoretical explanation for the attractiveness-narcissism link, the authors discuss the possibility that short-term mating success might be good for the species, making the findings consistent with evolutionary theory. Similarly, the socially bold may be the evolutionarily more successful. These interpretations may account for short-term mating success, but not for the cohesiveness of the family unit, which would seem like an important evolutionary consideration as well.
In either case, the upshot of the study is clear. Beware the lure of the handsome (or beautiful) charmer who not only makes good eye candy but also swaggers with perhaps a bit too much self-assurance. This person may be a great first date but, over time, an inability to establish close intimate bonds will only bring you sorrow. Long-term relationship fulfillment requires the emotional substance of someone who is not just socially bold, but socially caring.
There’s actually a ton more to this study, which included two other parts. It turns out that men are likewise attracted to narcissistic women, so this isn’t just a girl-on-guy thing.
Read more analysis here and here. Or read the entire study at Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin: “Are Narcissists Sexy? Zeroing in on the Effect of Narcissism on Short-Term Mate Appeal.”