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Are Dark Personalities More Attractive in the Dark?

An illuminating explanation for a dark personality’s allure.

Image by Kalhh from Pixabay
Source: Image by Kalhh from Pixabay

Dark personalities refer to the “Dark Triad” of psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism. Much has been written about the manipulative, malevolent characteristics of this trio of negative personality traits, but research continues to uncover additional factors related to how they operate, including conditions under which they may be able to successfully spark relationships with victims who are unaware of the person behind the persona.

Dark Weather Courtship

In a piece aptly entitled “Shrouded in the Veil of Darkness” (2014), John F. Rauthmann et al. show that when it comes to courtship, as compared to narcissists and psychopaths, Machiavellians do better in the dark.[i] Clearly, Dark Triad traits are present in both men and women. But in this particular study, the authors started out with the question: “When are women drawn to shady, self-centered, sly, cunning, and manipulative men?”

Regarding definitions, they define narcissism as encompassing everything from charm, arrogance, and manipulation, to seeking attention and admiration, to having a grandiose self-view. They explain that psychopathy involves a lack of empathy, as well as traits such as callousness, impulsivity, thrill-seeking, and anti-social behaviors. Machiavellianism, they explain, involves coldness, cynical thinking, exploitation, a desire for status, power, and money, and tactics of strategic manipulation.

Appreciating the demonstrably adaptive use of Dark Triad traits for short-term mating, as established by previous research, they specifically set out to test the hypothesis that dark personalities who use tactics of manipulation can benefit from conditions of less illumination. They note that less light may facilitate “shady operations” by decreasing visibility and promoting secrecy and anonymity.

The authors note that most people would rather not venture out in dark weather, such as occurs with clouds and rain. Consequently, the recognize such conditions could provide an advantage for dark personalities. They also note that prior research links Dark Triad traits to a nocturnal chronotype, which is in turn linked to enhanced success in short-term mating. They recognize that an inclination in favor of a nocturnal chronotype might indicate that dark personalities may be aware of the opportunity for increased mating benefits with less illumination. In their own words, they hypothesized that “dark personalities should be able to take advantage of less light to successfully lure potential mates into their fangs.”

Interestingly, their study provided support for some of their predictions, albeit with an interesting twist in terms of the benefits provided by darkness.

Approach in the Cover of Darkness

In the study, they had 59 men approach 1395 women on the street in either dark cloudy weather or bright sunny weather. The results demonstrated that Machiavellian men elicited more positive reactions from the women than their narcissistic and psychopathic counterparts—a result that was mediated by their assuredness.

In seeking to explain these results, Rauthmann et al. did not conclude that clouds make Machiavellians more attractive. But they did suggest that dark weather may boost a Machiavellianist´s self-esteem, facilitating the ability to elicit positive reactions from women due to an enhanced sense of assuredness.

The Bright Side of Courtship

We are familiar with the saying that sunlight is a disinfectant. Certainly, there are benefits to meeting new people in the light of day. Of course, there are plenty of ways to enhance physical lighting and interpersonal transparency regardless of the time of day or year, particularly in places with few hours of daylight in the wintertime. But in general, there are also benefits to lunch meetings and day-dates both physically and situationally.

Lunch dates capitalize on the energy of the middle of the day, unlike evening outings, particularly later in the evening, where energy levels are in danger of waning, as is judgment. Lunch or coffee dates also do not include alcohol, which is unfortunately involved in many dates-gone-bad and also avoids the problem of how the parties are getting home afterward.

Illuminating Introductions

As evidenced by continuous research into Dark Triad traits, it is important to know how to avoid overlooking negative, toxic, or even dangerous proclivities to begin with. Sometimes the best way to meet new acquaintances is through family and friends who actually know the person to whom they are introducing you. Having been vetted through trusted acquaintances, you are less likely to end up with a Dark Triad personality.

Despite the proliferation of dating websites, speed-dating sessions, and other methods of meeting strangers, sometimes being introduced to good old fashioned friends of friends is the safest way to become acquainted with people who are more likely to possess characteristics conducive to a healthy relationship.

Facebook image: Motortion Films/Shutterstock

References

[i] John F. Rauthmann, Marlit Kappes, and Johannes Lanzinger, “Shrouded in the Veil of Darkness: Machiavellians but not narcissists and psychopaths profit from darker weather in courtship,” Personality and Individual Differences 67, 2014, 57-63.

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