Psychologists from the University of Liverpool, who worked with colleagues in Poland and Finland, found that it is not the love of danger that attracts women to 'Wuthering Heights' Heathcliff-like characters, as previously believed, but a primitive desire to find a mate who appears mentally strong, confident and physically attractive in order to have healthier children.

Such men have facial features that display the 'Dark Triad' of personality traits –Machiavellianism, narcissism and psychopathy – said research for the journal 'Evolution and Human Behaviour'.

A total of 2,370 adult female volunteers were shown a selection of computer simulated men's faces in sets of two – with one face with more or less of the Dark Triad features than the other. Women were asked which of the two they were most attracted to.

Some were attracted to men with strong features associated with psychopathy or Machiavellian traits or narcissists while others were not. It found those who were strongly attracted to narcissistic men were likely to have more children than average, media reported.

But those who went for Machiavellian men had no more or less than average and if they fancied psychopaths they had less.

Out of the three Dark Triad features, narcissism is most clearly associated with social success and physical and psychological health benefits in men," they said.

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