science of us

It Would Be Great If Psychopaths Would Just Date Each Other

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If Killing Eve is to be believed, psychopaths are incredibly beautiful and sexy, especially if you can get over the murdery part. But while psychopaths are often described as highly (if superficially) charming — and, at least on television shows, are often good-looking — their romantic appeal, for most people, understandably ends there. After all, psychopaths also tend to be callous, deceitful, impulsive, and aggressive, among other traits most people find undesirable in a significant other.

But what if there were a type of person who was into that sort of thing? According to a new study, there is: other psychopaths. Aw!

The authors of the study, published in the Journal of Personality, asked almost 700 participants to respond to a survey assessing their own personalities. Subjects were then asked to “imagine a good-looking man or woman,” and asked to describe these hotties from a list of 70 traits drawn from “well‐validated criteria for psychopathic personality and diagnostic criteria for DSM‐5 personality disorders.”

Initially, researchers were curious as to whether there was something especially attractive about the psychopathic personality, citing stories of psychopathic male killers who’ve received multiple marriage proposals in prison. (Apparently, the romantic attraction to people who’ve committed serious crimes has a name: hybristophilia! Now you know.) However, the study’s results didn’t support this theory — when forced to construct a Dream Psychopath Boyfriend, subjects tended to choose the slightly more innocuous Factor 1 traits (like superficial charm and manipulativeness) over Factor 2 traits, like impulsivity and irresponsibility. But overall, subjects’ romantic interest in psychopathic traits was low. (The good news is that psychopaths don’t really get their feelings hurt.)

The silver lining for psychopaths (who, again, do not care) is that subjects who themselves possessed more psychopathic traits were more likely to express a romantic preference for psychopathic traits. To answer the authors’ titular question, “Do psychopathic birds of a feather flock together?” — yes, maybe, if not exclusively. Psychopathy, like sexuality, is a spectrum, and I know at least one person who isn’t a diagnosed psychopath who is very happy dating someone who is.

It Would Be Great If Psychopaths Would Just Date Each Other