Women like bad boys, but just how bad? According to a new study, the most self-absorbed men may be the best choice for women who desire reproductive success.

A group of researchers from Jagiellonian University, Krakow, University of Liverpool, and the University of Turku, Finland, decided to take a look at some of the darkest personality traits recognized in humans, and how they impacted reproductive success. The “Dark Triad” is a group of three personality traits — narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. The “dark” part is that those scoring high on these traits are implied to have malevolent qualities. These personality traits are also associated with certain physical features, as well, leading to the “dark and brooding” stereotype.

For the study, more than 2,000 female volunteers were shown a collection of computer simulated men’s faces in pairs — one face with more “Dark Triad” features than the other. The women then selected the face they were most attracted to. Certain dark features were associated with a single trait of the triad — faces appearing “dishonest” were related to Machiavellianism; “masculine” and “dominant” faces were linked to narcissism; and “aggressive” and “less happy” were related to psychopathic tendencies.

Some women were attracted to men with features associated with only one of the traits, which formed the basis of the research team’s conclusions.

“We examined whether the preferences of the women surveyed for the Dark Triad personality traits in men’s faces were related to reproductive success,” said Dr. Minna Lyons, an author of the study. “Previous studies have found that out of the three Dark Triad features, narcissism was associated with physical and psychological health benefits in men as well as social success. We predicted that women’s preference for narcissism could be most strongly related to their reproductive success, and as we found that women with preference for high narcissistic men’s faces gave birth to more offspring.”

In addition, women who showed the highest preference for Machiavellian male faces reported fewer offspring than their peers with a weak preference. Those who felt most attracted to psychopathic men’s faces did not show any correlation between that preference and number of offspring.

“These findings suggest that in today’s society, women’s preference for some of the Dark Triad traits in men may be related to their reproductive success.”

Source: Marcinkowska U, Lyons M, Helle S. Women’s reproductive success and the preference for Dark Triad in men’s faces. Evolution and Human Behavior. 2016.