FRIDAY, April 6, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Narcissists aren't more likely to pursue partners who are already taken, but it doesn't stop them, a new study finds.
Study leader Amy Brunell wanted to find out if people with narcissistic traits were more likely than others to engage in what she calls "mate poaching."
"I thought it was possible that there might be something appealing about the 'game' of mate poaching that might appeal to narcissists, because they are known to play games," said Brunell, an associate professor of psychology at Ohio State University.
The study focused on a group of college students who had personality traits that the researchers described as "grandiose narcissism." These traits include selfishness and inflated self-importance. Narcissists tend to take advantage of people and are less likely to feel guilty about it. Still, grandiose narcissists can appear to be charming and socially skilled, the researchers said.
Brunell's study of hundreds of college students revealed that the narcissists among them did more often pursue people who were already in a relationship. But they weren't necessarily motivated by the fact that a person was already spoken for.
"They seem to not discriminate between those in relationships and those who are single. It could be that they just go after whoever appeals to them without regard for relationship status," Brunell said in a university news release.
"Understanding the behavior of narcissists is important because it helps us better understand the people who are in our lives — and the types of people we don't necessarily want in our lives," she said.
The study was published online March 27 in the journal PLOS One.
The American Psychological Association has more on narcissism.