From the moody Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights to evil psychopath Richard Hillman in Coronation Street, women like their facial features.
It is not the love of danger that attracts them but a primitive desire to find a mate who appears mentally strong, confident and physically attractive to have healthier children.
Such men have facial features that show a “dark triad” of traits – Machiavellianism, narcissism and psychopathy – says the Evolution and Human Behaviour journal.
Women show a preference for these because it indicates strong genes and good mental and physical health.
The study was by psychologists from Liverpool University and colleagues in Poland and Finland.
The researchers explained: “We examined whether preferences for the Dark Triad personality traits (i.e., Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy) in men”s faces were related to reproductive success in contemporary women.
“Out of the three Dark Triad features, narcissism is most clearly associated with social success and physical and psychological health benefits in men.
“We predicted that women”s preference for narcissism could be most strongly related to their reproductive success.
“In line with this, we found that women with preference for high narcissistic men”s faces gave birth to more offspring.
“Women with strong preference for Machiavellian male faces reported fewer offspring than their same-aged peers with weak preference.
“And preference for psychopathic men”s faces was unrelated to women”s current number of offspring.
“These findings suggest that in modern society, women”s preference for some of the Dark Triad traits in men may be related to their reproductive success.”