June 19, 2008

The Dark Triad

  1. Self-obsession of narcissism
  2. Impulsive, thrill-seeking and callous behavior of psychopaths
  3. Deceitful and exploitative nature of Machiavellianism

Now, why would any woman seek a mate with such despicable characteristics? I have no idea, but I have always conjectured that they did. Remember Kira Argounova and Leo Kovalensky in Rand's We the Living, the case of the sublime seeking the affections of the ridiculous? Fiction?

Well, reality can be stranger than fiction. Gopika, a good friend of mine, was obsessed with this guy, Shyam, a brilliant fellow from the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai, India, but fitted the dark triad description to a tee. A twentieth century Krishna — come to think of it, Krishna, the heartthrob of just about every pubescent girl in India, fits the dark triad, doesn't he? — all of Shyam's friends, barring Gopika, had long lost count of how many women he had hopped. Gopika was adamant, though, that she would be the exception, and Shyam would be faithful to her. The marriage lasted but only three years, and every minute of those three years was hell for Gopika.

Kriahna's Rasaleela with the Gopikas

I have more anecdotal evidence for the success of men like Shyam with women, but I'll spare you the litany. The New Scientist reports:

... says Peter Jonason at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. "We have some evidence that the three traits are really the same thing and may represent a successful evolutionary strategy." ... Just as Bond seduces woman after woman, people with dark triad traits may be more successful with a quantity-style or shotgun approach to reproduction, even if they don't stick around for parenting. "The strategy seems to have worked. We still have these traits," Jonason says ...

This observation seems to hold across cultures. David Schmitt of Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, presented preliminary results at the same meeting from a survey of more than 35,000 people in 57 countries. He found a similar link between the dark triad and reproductive success in men. "It is universal across cultures for high dark triad scorers to be more active in short-term mating," Schmitt says. "They are more likely to try and poach other people's partners for a brief affair."

If the dark triad of traits were evolutionarily successful, why haven't they spread more widely among the males? The researchers suggest that possibly because they are successful only when they are rare; otherwise, the females will become suspicious and guarded. To me, that explanation seems to be tottering on the edge of tautology, but, hey, I am not a biologist or an evolutionary psychologist!

Even if we were to grant that it could be an evolutionarily successful strategy for the male to be a Machiavellian, psychopathic, rake, what evolutionary advantage does the female expect from mating with him? Why is masochism a successful strategy for the female? Why do Radha, Rukmini, Sathyabhama, Meera, Andal..., and Gopika, insist on falling blindly for Krishna, the dark one?

  1. Interesting and I have seen quite a number of friends fatally attracted to these dark triad men, aware of their history and yet helpless before their attraction.
    I used to think that the fact that these men were attractive to a lot of other girls made them attractive to many girls. 'I have got the guy everyone wants' kind of superiority. Only nobody ever 'gets' these guys and this realisation comes a bit too late.

    As for the dark one from mythology, which girl can resist that rascal?

  2. I'm still recovering from a 4-year relationship with a man like this. Very seductive, very intense, and yes, the "I have got the guy everyone wants" was part of the seduction. It's very true that I never "had" him. I left him when his lack of empathy became painfully obvious. The only good thing that came out of all this is a renewed commitment to myself, so that this never happens to me again.

  3. TRF:
    It's still difficult to thrash out and dissect the female mindset, especially what makes a man attractive. Scientists would obviously like to fit everything in their pet theories. I, however, don't think the last word has been said. I still don't understand why women find me attractive. If I were one, I would never have shared that taste. I wonder what the mystery is. Some things are, like the cliche says so conveniently, meant to be mysterious. We are better off for them!

  4. Hey doc: I think I have may have the diagnosis on why women find you attractive - it is the white coat and the degree in medicine that makes you seem so romantic. My god, a man who saves lives (swoon...swoon...swoon) and then of course those delicate fingers that surgeons are known to possess. Of course you knew it all and you were fishing, weren't you!

  5. There are women who embody the dark triad too. Scarlett O'Hara and her numerous fictional and real-life counterparts, anyone? The predatory and highly sexual female is a favourite plot-point for many pulp novelists.

    I know one or two such women myself. Fortunately, they are friends who haven't tried to steal my bf. Or should I say, so far? :/

  6. Well, again I went through some more of your blogs and this one should make me comment ;-)

    I think there is a confusion or lack of understanding - The whole concept of triad is not correct and women do not stupidly go after guys. Putting Krishna in that category is also wrong - going even merely by stories of him - how many of the girls has he made pregnant? The whole aspect of bringing this down to successful mating for reproduction is wrong - reflects cave mindedness...

    People enjoy relationships and intimacy - ESPECIALLY when it is safe and the other partner takes care of you (taking care means different things in different situations). It goes both ways - for females just to have pleasure with assured security and without consequences and for male non-dependence and no-commitment. These assured and if they have intense interest in each other - may not be for life time but the time that they can manage to spend together - why do you people who are not that good be jealous and classify these guys as a sort of criminals and the girls whom you think falls for them as idiots?

    Those are people who have fine time on this world... After all, what are your social laws? - Which anyway are not rational considering our ancestry of coming from species which do not practise monogamy. Aren’t you tinged by your religion, cultural background and how your brain and thought pattern has been shaped in this? Wouldn't you want to me more rational?

    And you should have known at least by this age that no girl would cheat the better half at the point of time when she is committed to him (even if it is not for a life time) by providing him with an offspring, which is not his!!! So there goes your reproductive theory and treating such people as criminals and idiots...

    But I do note that there are such guys/girls with dark triads and it is well to keep away from them - what I have mentioned above is for those decent flocks and a slip or sign of interest in another person (or persons?) need not mean that they should hang themselves or their partners...

    (Dr. Kasivishvanathan Sundar)

  7. @ anonymous:

    There are several flaws with your argument. number 1- deceitfulness can put on a show of how secure one can be. number 2- the feared 'socially acceptable response'. Women respond to surveys and theories and statements with emotions. Anything that feels bad or not 'socially acceptable' (because theories of women are a reflection on themselves, they only agree with what 'feels' right) is responded to with 'I strongly disagree'.

    But when the moment comes, you're probably not thinking about the degree of Machiavellianism this guy or that guy has. Not if the physical attraction sparks. Then the chatting comes, and you only know what you've been told, whether you believe a certain % or not. The lack of emotion seems to translate as 'cool' and 'maturity'.

    The Narcissist would then talk about all the things he's done, but don't think it would be an obvious "Oh and I'm so awesome, I did this...". High intelligence and self-enhancement are big covariates with them. Put that with the fact that they'll get more women (experience plus self-enhancement), and you get another reason women go after them.

    You can pout and say 'That's not right' or 'Well only the dumb girls...'. But once again, when you're in the moment and you've caught someone's eye, all that goes out the window.


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