Why Nice Guys Finish Last

New research suggests a biological reason for why bad boys get all the girls.

ByAUDREY GRAYSON<br>ABC News Medical Unit

June 19, 2008&#151; -- Ricky Menezes, a 22-year-old from Marlborough, Mass., says he knows he will hook up with "about 20 girls" in the next month.

How does he know this, you ask? Ricky knows this because he's what we call a "bad boy" -- the type of guy who knows exactly how to act, what to say and how to manipulate women into giving him what he wants.

"It all started in high school," Ricky said. "I started being the outgoing, crazy, funny kid that everyone thought was fun and wanted to hang out with."

After being validated by his peers in high school, Ricky said he has more or less mastered the art of being a bad boy, and has done so with one overriding goal in mind -- sexual conquest.

"I don't pretend to be anything I'm not," Ricky said. "I'm honest and outspoken. I say that I'm just looking to hook up. ... I'm not afraid to go for it, and I rarely get rejected.

"Oh, and I'm in a band. You have to be in a band. Girls love guys in bands," he added.

Most everyone knows -- or at least knows of -- a stereotypical "bad boy" like Ricky. The guy with such high self-esteem he could aptly be called a narcissist. The guy who wins women over with deceit, callousness and impulsive behavior. Basically, the type of guy who resembles a real-life version of Hugh Grant's character in "Bridget Jones' Diary."

The success of Ricky and so many other "bad boys" with women seems to add weight to the popular saying "good guys finish last."

And there might be more than just a grain of truth in these mantras about bad boys; new research suggests they might actually be attracting more women than their "nicer" counterparts.

Researchers at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces gave 200 college students personality tests to see how many of what psychologists call "dark triad traits" they possessed. These traits include callousness, impulsive behavior, extroversion, narcissism and various other anti-social traits for which "bad boys" are known.

The researchers also asked about the student's sex lives, their feelings about sexual relationships, their number of sexual partners, and what they are seeking in sexual or romantic relationships.

According to Peter Jonason, lead study investigator, although society tends to look down upon these "negative" dark triad personality traits, there seems to be quite an upside to being a bad boy.

"We would traditionally consider these dark triad traits to be adverse personality traits, and we think women would avoid these kinds of men, but what we show is counterintuitive -- that women are attracted to these bad boys and they do pretty well in terms of sheer numbers of sexual partners," Jonason explained. "They're taking quantity over quality as their sexual agenda, being serially monogamous and having multiple partners or one-night stands."

Jonason compared the type of "dark triad bad boy" that the study refers to as a modern-day James Bond figure -- a man with little empathy for others, a penchant for fast cars and even faster women, and a seeker of short-term rather than long-term goals -- especially concerning the opposite sex.

And because these characters appear in this study to be successful at achieving their short-term goals -- which, in this case, is a short-term sexual relationship -- Jonason believes such character traits have persevered in so many people because they seem to be evolutionarily successful.

"Dark triad traits are useful in pursuing our agendas at any given time," Jonason explained. "If you like someone and want to meet them and date them, people who have the dark triad traits appear to be more successful at facilitating short-term mating."

Jonason validated this point with a comparison to the popular VH1 show "The Pick-Up Artist," wherein nerdy, nice guys meet with a typical bad boy to learn how to pick up more of these dark triad traits -- and also more women.

But some experts say it might not be so simple.

Heather Rupp, a research fellow at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, believes that the reason women may be drawn toward the "bad boys" is more because of physiology more than psychology.

"I think it goes back to the physiological underpinnings of such an attraction," Rupp said. "For instance, testosterone is a hormone that in men is linked to more dominant personality traits -- outgoing personalities and charm and things like that. And men with higher testosterone are rated by independent observers as being more outgoing and charming than others."

Some experts, however, believe that these narcissistic males tend to embellish the self-reported tales of their own sexual conquest, leading others to believe they are more sexually successful than they really are.

"People high in dark triad traits tend to say what they think others want to hear," said Everett Worthington, professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Moreover, Worthington notes that while some of these males may be more successful at short-term sexual relationships, their overall success with long-term relationships is often compromised by their dark triad traits.

"The manipulative 'It's all about me, so tell 'em anything to get sex' behavior is likely to have more short-term sexual success," Worthington said. "A strategy of building trust and intimacy and commitment is, by nature, going to take longer. Thus, the payoffs are likely to be greater in the short term. However, long-term relationship survival is likely to be strongly disadvantaged in people with dark triad traits."

So maybe good guys don't always finish last.

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