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- A study found that psychopathic traits aren’t that attractive to other people.
- These traits include recklessness, a lack of empathy, and manipulation.
- But when it comes to psychopaths attracting other psychopaths, it appears like attracts like.
- This could be partly due to them having a bad reputation.
- Their public image isn’t wholeheartedly deserved, as psychopaths are not all serial killers.
- But their traits are still unpleasant at times, which could be why they stick together.
People with antisocial personality disorder tend to be known as psychopaths or sociopaths. They’re known for being reckless, thrill-seeking, and lacking in empathy.
Relationships with psychopaths are never smooth sailing. If they are particularly narcissistic, they’re not happy unless they’re the center of attention all the time, meaning they can be obsessive and controlling. Sometimes, they may enjoy ruining the life of their partner, abusing them, gaslighting them, and bullying them into submission.
According to a study published in the Journal of Personality, people don’t tend to find psychopathic traits in a partner very attractive. But when it comes to psychopaths going for people like them, it appears like attracts like.
Researchers from Emory University recruited 696 men and women to report what they were looking for in a person to date, to have a short-term relationship with, or a long-term relationship. They were given a list of 70 characteristics to choose from, taken from the DSM‐5 classification for personality disorders.
Generally, romantic interest in psychopathic traits was low, but participants who scored highly on the psychopathic spectrum themselves were more likely to prefer higher levels in a partner.
“To a large extent, our findings support a ‘like attracts like’ hypothesis for psychopathic traits,” the researchers Ashley L. Watts, Jessica C. Rohr, Katherine L. McCauley, Sarah Francis Smith, Kristin Landfield Howe, and Scott O. Lilienfeld wrote.
Psychopaths have a bad reputation
Generally, psychopathy has a bad reputation, which may explain why their traits aren’t so desirable.
Psychologist Adrian Raine, an expert of antisocial personality disorders, told INSIDER that there isn’t a specific definition for psychopathy, but generally it’s someone who lacks conscience, remorse, and guilt.
“I think there’s been quite a lot of research and debate over whether psychopathy is a category, or is it a dimension,” he said. “And I think main researchers in psychopathy all concur that psychopathy is a dimension – it’s shades of grey, it’s a continuum. It’s just like height, weight, or IQ.”
In other words, people tend to fall on the scale somewhere, but to be diagnosed as a psychopath you need to tick off a certain amount of traits in a checklist like the Hare Psychopathy Test.
However, the exaggerated characterisation of psychopathy we see in fiction isn’t accurate, Raine added. For instance, there is no evidence to suggest they are fascinated by death and killing more than the average person.
“Most psychopaths don’t kill,” he said. “Most psychopaths are not violent. However, they are perhaps more likely to be violent, and more likely to commit homicide than other offenders.”
This sounds contradictory because murder is rare. Psychopaths may be two or three times more likely to commit murder than the average criminal offender, but relatively few psychopaths do kill anyone.
They do have more violent, sexual, and aggressive dreams, though, which may be a result of their thrill-seeking nature
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Why ‘like attracts like’
Psychopaths may not all be murderers, but their lack of empathy for others may still be unpleasant for others to be around.
Psychologist Susan Krauss Whitbourne argues in a blog post for Psychology Today that this bad reputation psychopaths get from other people could contribute to the “like causes like” pattern.
“People who themselves score high on measures of psychopathy should be far less likely, if at all, to stigmatize those who share their personality traits,” she wrote. “If they’re high on the positive psychopathic dimension of fearlessness, they should be less afraid of being harmed, but they may also be more accepting in general.”
Psychopaths, and people with other dark personality traits like Machiavellianism, sadism, and narcissism, are also attracted to other sorts of people. For instance, narcissists may be attracted to empaths because they see them as a continuous supply of attention.
Dark personalities may also like people who are impressive in some way, because it makes them look good by association, or people who make them feel good through compliments and gestures. They are also likely to target people’s strengths over their weaknesses because they’re known to enjoy a challenge.