- A study found that people with psychopathic traits are more likely to be attracted to others on the same psychopathic spectrum.
- Psychopathic qualities include lack of empathy, lack of remorse, and other antisocial traits.
- Psychopathic traits aren't that attractive to non-psychopathic individuals.
There’s nothing in our society that rings more alarm bells than the prospect of psychopathic behavior. These traits are the most undesirable qualities a person can have. Impulsive, cold, removed and more likely to commit aggressive and antisocial acts, the image of a psychopath breeds fear among many people.
Yet, not all psychopaths are murderers and the dregs of society. Although many psychopathic individuals are looked at with fear, many psychologists believe that this view is unwarranted. Many psychopathic traits are prevalent in CEOs who run and dominate their industries. There is also no evidence that psychopaths are more likely to be violent criminals. Still the fear persists, as much as society is repulsed by psychopaths, they’re also intrigued by them too.
Who doesn’t love the somewhat well meaning serial killer killer… Dexter. And let’s not forget about all those cheaters on Tinder with more pronounced psychopathic traits.
Maybe they’re just looking for love too — with other psychopaths that is.
Which brings us to the point of a new study suggesting just that.
Christian Bale in American Psycho
Study shows psychos like other psychos
According to a study published in the Journal of Personality in April, by researchers at Emory University, it was found that psychopaths are, indeed, attracted to others who had psychopathic tendencies. Others with non-psychopathic dispositions of course did not find the majority of these traits attractive.
The study — titled “Do Psychopathic Birds of a Feather Flock Together?” — consisted of 696 men and women from diverse ethnic backgrounds. They were asked to report on what they were looking for in a potential partner they wanted to date. The people in the study were also asked to report on whether or not they wanted a short-term or long-term relationship.
Seventy characteristics from the DSM-5 personality disorders classification system were given to them in a list. The participants also rated themselves as well.
Researchers found that many participants liked Factor 1 psychopathic traits which included superficial charm, lack of empathy, and manipulation, better than Factor 2 traits which included impulsivity and irresponsibleness. But when it came to romance, these psychopathic traits were rated much lower.
Other participants with higher measures of psychopathy found those with higher levels of psychopathic traits more apt as a romantic partner.
It was also found that males in the study had more interest in psychopathic traits in women than females did with men.
The researchers stated:
“Our findings suggest that although absolute preferences for psychopathic traits are low on average, individuals with marked psychopathic features and [personality disorders] features more generally are more inclined than others to endorse a romantic preference for psychopathic individuals, at least in the abstract.”
There were some limits to the study as a lot of this was in the hypothetical realm of dating.
Psychopaths and the ‘like attracts like’ hypothesis
Some psychologists like Susan Krauss Whitbourne believes that the reputation psychopaths get from regular people could be a symptom of the “like causes like” phenomenon. Additionally this could be responsible for the inverse. She states:
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.
It’s generally thought that, in an ironic way, there is actually an empathetic relationship between two psychopaths.
It’s also been found that those with other dark personality traits share a similar inclination to one another. For example, sadistic people, narcissists, and so on are more likely to understand and be attracted to one another.
Concluding their study, the researchers stated:
“To a large extent, our findings support a ‘like attracts like’ hypothesis for psychopathic traits.”
UPDATE Saturday, November 3: A previous version of this story had instances where the word “psychotic” was used inaccurately.