Study: Psychopaths are romantically attracted to other psychopaths

On the recent BBC drama “Killing Eve,” Villanelle is the assassin villain who charms people to her like helpless moths to a flame. Villanelle’s colleagues and enemies are equally attracted and repulsed by her calculating and magnetic personality. Even the British agent Eve who is charged with tracking her down finds herself attracted to Villanelle in spite of herself. This is the fantasy of psychopaths in Hollywood: They are irresistible for other people to deny.

But in reality, unless you are a psychopath yourself, you may have nothing to fear about feeling attraction, a new study in the Journal of Personality finds.

“To a large extent, our findings support a ‘like attracts like’ hypothesis for psychopathic traits,” the authors of the study concluded.

People generally do not find psychopathy attractive

The researchers recruited almost 700 participants to respond to a survey assessing their own personalities and then asking them “imagine a good-looking man or woman” from a list of 70 traits taken from the DSM‐5 classification for personality disorders.  When forced to create their imperfect perfect partner, the participants were more likely to choose Factor 1 psychopathic traits like superficial charm and manipulativeness over Factor 2 traits like impulsivity and irresponsibility, but attraction to psychopaths was low in general.

But what if you are a manipulative, impulsive, irresponsible person yourself? Then you might find these traits attractive. Participants who scored higher on psychopathic traits tended to want higher levels of psychopathic traits in their ideal romantic partner.

Birds of a bad feather may end up flocking together. If you find yourself attracted to a manipulative, reckless person in real life, it may say as much about you as it does about your romantic preference.