A response to my recent post about “bad boys” sparked my interest. The reader asked why we (or some of us, anyway) find them so appealing in the first place. Until today, I didn’t really believe a legitimate reason existed. Apparently, however, psychologists have studied the phenomenon with respect to narcissists, who are generally deemed very sexy.
Psychology Today contributor Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., has written articles (one and two) related to this topic, which I’m going to try to summarize for your edification. Of course, I find this exceedingly interesting on a personal level, and as a women’s fiction/romance writer interested in understanding character motivation and development pertaining to love and desire.
Essentially, a person’s attractiveness can be split into two categories: static and dynamic. Static attractiveness refers to someone’s genetic, physical beauty. Long legs, thick hair, great bone structure…basically the stuff we can’t control (at least not without major surgery). Dynamic attractiveness, on the other hand, involves things related to grooming habits, personal carriage, and expression…all things we can influence.
Of the two types of appeal, dynamic attractiveness ultimately holds more sway over a person’s overall appeal to either gender. One of the most important elements of dynamic appeal is expression (communication style). Allegedly, people who spontaneously express themselves with high levels of emotion (especially positive emotion) are universally more appealing than those who do not, according to more than one study.
So how does this lead to making us like those “bad boys” (or girls)? Well, narcissists (a common trait among “bad boys”) are typically viewed as more physically appealing and socially bold. Narcissists are not, as a rule, possessed of more static attractiveness, but they focus more on grooming than the average person, and the carry themselves with more confidence. Their sense of importance and confidence tends to make them socially bold. This combination of factors greatly enhances their dynamic attractiveness, which makes them sexy and appealing to the masses. Of course, not all people with high dynamic appeal are narcissists (but most narcissists have high dynamic appeal).
Interestingly, there is a twist. While the narcissist (or “bad boy”) enjoys having more appeal in short-term relationships, that high rating rarely lasts long enough to sustain a long-term relationship. In other words, we wise up, dump those frogs, and go find our prince (or princess).
So I guess now we’ve all learned how to better assess the source of another person’s appeal (as well as our own). I think this phenomenon applies equally to romantic and platonic appeal, but I haven’t seen any study on that theory!
Now, who’s going to admit to putting more effort into increasing his or her dynamic attractiveness today (and in the future)? Go for it!
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photo credit: Tono Balaguer, 123rf.com