THURSDAY, May 30 (HealthDay News) -- Men with high levels of
narcissism -- an unrealistically positive self-image coupled with
feelings of entitlement -- have an easier time than others
attracting a potential mate, new German research says.
"Narcissism is linked to mate appeal in a real-life situation," said Michael Dufner, a researcher at Humboldt University of Berlin, who led the study.
The research is published in the July issue of the journal
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
Dufner and his team first measured narcissism levels in 61 men
with an average age of 25, who were invited to join a courtship
study in Germany. "We focused on narcissism as a personality trait,
not the personality disorder," he said. "This means that everybody
has a certain narcissism level -- for some it is higher, for others
Next, the researchers asked the men to approach women they did
not know on the street and get contact information. It could be a
phone number, email or Facebook contact.
Research assistants followed the men (which the men were aware
of), observing the interactions. Dufner decided to focus on men in
this study because men traditionally court a potential mate in this
way, compared to women's typically more subtle approaches, such as
flirting, he said.
"We tested if individuals with higher narcissism scores are more appealing," he said.
On average, the men approached about 23 women. To rule out the
possibility that the more narcissistic men were more selective in
who they approached, the researchers analyzed each woman who was
approached on her physical attractiveness and manner of dress. The
narcissists weren't more selective.
The narcissistic guys did get the girl more often. The higher
the level of narcissism, the more likely they were to get more
"The effect was not due to high self-esteem, but indeed the narcissism," Dufner said. The physical attractiveness and social boldness of the narcissists were the two likely reasons for their appeal to women, he said.
Dufner offered some caveats about the research, though. "We were
not able to directly test the causality underlying the association
between narcissism and physical attractiveness," he said.
One possibility, he said, is that physical attractiveness may be
a partial cause of narcissism, as other researchers have
For narcissists -- and the women they seek -- the news is not
all good, Dufner said. "Narcissists are charming and appealing at
first sight, but they are not long-term romantic partners," he
The study findings confirm what many experts have long
suspected, said Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego
State University who has written about narcissism. "Narcissists are
very good at initiating relationships," she said. "On first
impression, they come across as confident and charming. The
problems arise later on, when you realize that he doesn't actually
care about you -- it's all about him."
Twenge was not involved in the study, but reviewed the
Caution is the byword for those attracted to narcissists, both
experts agreed. "In the long run, narcissists made bad relationship
partners," Twenge said. "They lack empathy and have a difficult
time taking someone else's perspective."
Twenge said she does understand why women fall for narcissists.
"The initial appeal of narcissists comes from their assertiveness
and confidence," she said. "These are stereotypically masculine
traits that many women find appealing."
To learn more about narcissism, visit the
American Psychological Association.
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