Sensation Seeking Women And Dark Triad Men

Another interesting piece of research from the Evolutionary Psychology team at Liverpool University (and colleagues) was published recently. The aim was to investigate whether or not women differ in their preference for Dart Triad males depending on individual levels of sensation seeking.

Dark Triad traits include Narcissism (elevated self-worth and entitlement; [1]), Machiavellianism (exploitative nature and lack of faith in humanity; [2]), and Psychopathy (emotional coldness and antisocial behavior; [3]). All three traits have all been shown to influence relationship strategies e.g. infidelity, which are not beneficial to potential mates [4]. Building on this, it has been argued that it is evolutionarily beneficial for women to be averse to males who score highly on Dark Triad traits, which they evidently do [5]. However, it has also been shown that women who score high on sensation-seeking traits (e.g. seeking novel experiences and indulging in risks for the sakes of the experience; [6]) display a preference for dominant partners, sexual risk taking, and traits associated with narcissism [7-9].

Using this rationale, Brewer and colleagues aimed to investigate whether women scoring high on sensation-seeking would be less aversive in their preferences for mates with high Dark Triad traits. They recruited participants to complete the online study. Participants were presented with facial composite pairs (one high and one low Dark Triad individual in each pair) and asked to choose which they thought was most attractive in the context of a short-term or long-term relationship. Participants then completed the Sensation-Seeking Scale (SSS-V; [6]).

Their findings showed that participants were averse to all three Dark Triad traits in both the context of short and long-term relationships. Additionally, those scoring high on sensation-seeking  did not prefer Dark Triad individuals any more than those who scored low on sensation-seeking. They concluded that womens’ aversion to men with high Dark Triad traits is resistant to individual variation.

So, no need to worry if you’re a risky woman looking for a mate because you are probably still ‘safe’ from Dark Triad men. Click here to find the full article.


[1] Emmons, R. A. (1984). Factor analysis and construct validity of the narcissistic personality inventory. Journal of Personality Assessment, 48, 291–300.

[2] Christie, R., & Geis, F. L. (1970). Studies in Machiavellianism. London: Academic Press.

[3] Hare, R. D. (1996). Psychopathy: A clinical construct whose time has come. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 23, 25–54.

[4] Brewer, G., Hunt, D., James, G., & Abell, L. (2015). Dark triad traits, infidelity and ro- mantic revenge. Personality and Individual Differences, 83, 122–127.

[5] Lyons, M. T., Marcinkowska, U. M., Helle, S., & McGrath, L. (2015). Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the most masculine of them all? The Dark Triad, masculinity, and women’s mate choice. Personality and Individual Differences, 74, 153–158.

[6] Zuckerman, M. (1994). Behavioral expressions and biosocial bases of sensation seeking. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

[7] Giebel, G., Moran, J., Schawohl, A., & Weierstall, R. (2015). The thrill of loving a dominant partner: Relationships between preference for a dominant male, sensation seeking, and trait anxiety. Personal Relationships, 22, 275–284.

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