Do Women Really Like Bad Boys?

06/23/2014

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Courtesy Stockton Police Department/Facebook

The nation’s heartthrob over the past few days has been this "hot mugshot guy," a handsome young man who was arrested for allegedly engaging in felony terrorism and weapons charges.

With piercing blue eyes and some pretty modelesque bone strucgture, social media exploded with jokes (kind of) from women asking whether this stunner was single or if there were ways to be his cellmate. This was all in good fun, but it brings up an interesting question. Could it be that some women are actually attracted to “bad boys?”

Spontaneous, fun, exciting, and naughty, are just a few ways to describe the bad boys who can come across as mysteriously irresistible, despite intuitions that they might be trouble in the long run. An important component of the bad boy personality is what researchers would call “sensation seeking,” which is a strong need for novelty, risk, and emotionally charged experiences. Researchers Jonathan Bassett and Brett Moss explored this question in a study that asked, “Do men and women differ in their preferences for mates who are high in sensation seeking?”

To assess whether singles have a preference for sensation seeking, the researchers asked over 300 young men and women to rate the desirability of various dating profiles that presented potential mates who varied in their degree of sensation seeking. What they found was that when it came to potential long-term relationship partners, only women showed a significant preference for high sensation seeking men, compared to those who were low or moderate in sensation seeking. Bottom line: Female participants were more attracted to the risky guys.

Sensation seeking partners can be full of excitement and fun -- for awhile. Numerous studies show that in general, bad boys stay bad boys, and so your mom was probably right when she said your motorcycle-driving high school boyfriend was bad news. Even though they can be mysteriously attractive, your intuition about possible trouble brewing with these types of guys is usually right.

More About Love and Relationships:

Why Women Find Ryan Lochte So Attractive

How to Take a Flattering Selfie

Does Love-at-First-Sight Really Exist?


Ty Tashiro is the author of The Science of Happily Ever After: What Really Matters in the Quest for Enduring Love, an entertaining look at why modern dating is so challenging, why people can easily make bad partner choices, and how science can help us make smart decisions in the search for enduring love. It's available on Amazon, Indie Bound and Barnes & Noble. Dr. Ty received his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Minnesota. His research has appeared in top academic journals and he has been an award-winning professor at the University of Maryland and University of Colorado. Follow him on facebook and twitter.
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