Scott Kaufman's blog post, "Do Assholes Rreally Finish First" seemed to only focus on the nature debate of the issue. While I agree with the results of Dr. Kaufman's findings, I disagree with his interpretation of his data to date. Being non-conscientious, narcissistic, and impulsive is a recipe for tragedy in the long run. It is not a matter of what you are seeking in your life at whatever point in your life, it is a matter of if you are pursuing healthy goals. For that matter, most parents, even those who struggle with their own brand of narcissism, will go to great lengths to address and redirect a non-conscientious adolescent offspring's path to self destructiveness.
From a gene eyed perspective being consistently conscientious is beneficial to any human being, this is because all human beings are vulnerable, and there are strength in numbers both from a physical perspective and an emotional one as well. People who are consistently conscientious tend to be surrounded by others who are equally conscientious and in return are surrounded by consistent support. In the early days of man, being conscientious increased the likelihood for survival in the wilderness, and that still rings true in today's world, regardless of one's cultural environment. On average women are usually first to recognize the benefits of conscientiousness, this is because they are usually the primary caretakers of off springs, and as any parent knows, taking care of children, especially infants, toddlers and young children on a full time basis can be mentally and physically exhausting. This is where help comes in
Men in contrast are usually the last to become cognizant about the benefits of conscientiousness, and this awareness usually occurs in their latter years, once aging has kicked in, and they find themselves with less youthful vigor and significantly more vulnerable. Being conscientious is a genetic trait every normal human being possesses, due to the fact that we came into the world as helpless human beings, and we will all leave the world in the same fashion, be it a life shortened by tragedy, sickness, or natural causes. People, who consistently victimize others in some fashion or the other, live a life of high anxiety, as they are always anticipating retaliation at some point, and as a result they trust few people, if any. Also people who struggle to empathize with others, and are routinely disagreeable tend to be depressed, because they are surrounded by few people who care about them.
So why is there such a tenacious perception in popular culture that women find assholes more attractive and that assholes finish first? There are two popular theories to this question, the first being a matter of deception. In truth what assholes try to present to others, especially to members of the opposite sex is a selfless adventurer, or to use an analogy, a soldier. Soldiers are usually adored and respected in most cultures; this is because the role of a soldier is someone who is prepared to pay the ultimate price with his life, for the good of the community. Much like some species of frogs who can inflate their bodies to twice their size to fool would be predators, assholes usually present as the adventurous types willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the good of their community, but in the long run this presentation is usually discovered to be fraudulent. The second theory to this question is sexism. Especially in societies where sexism presents as being the order of the day, most women are usually forced towards making the pragmatic decision of staying with a man, who presents as being in the better position of providing for their off springs. A man with low agreeableness and low conscientiousness is more likely to be abusive towards his wife and sometimes children and it may be perceived that he is getting away with it in the short run. In the long run, he experiences strained relationships with his adult children and possibly his wife, without the vigor of his youthful days to maintain consistency in actions that emphasized a lack of conscientiousness towards others.
So why is there also a persistent perception that nice guys finish last? In Dr. Kaufman's blog post, he differentiated between the nice guy and the overly nice guy. I.e., the nice guy will call when he says he will and the overly nice guy will call about twenty times. From my experience as a therapist, especially with working with adolescents and young adults, I have noticed that most young males who fit into the category of the overly nice guys, struggle with the character deficits of low conscientiousness, low agreeableness, low confidence, and excessive passive aggressiveness. Overly nice guys tend to be just as self centered as their "bad boy" counterparts, with the exception that they do not have the confidence to be overt with their intentions. I have found that in helping such clients overcome what initially presents as excessive shyness in talking to members of the opposite sex, the therapeutic process has evolved towards helping them develop their own level of conscientiousness towards improving their social skills and relating well to others. So I would agree, overly nice guys do finish last, as most people are able to immediately pick up on their insincerity while with assholes, their obnoxious personality are usually effective in preventing people to truly know them in the short run.
Low agreeableness is not necessary a negative trait or behavior, however, narcissism, poor conscientiousness and a lack of empathy towards others are all learned ways of interacting with and perceiving the world. The good news is, such manners of perceiving the world can be unlearned and replaced with healthier habits and attitudes.