Have you ever wondered why hot, talented, smart women date total jerks? Television is filled with examples of guys dogging chicks—seriously beautiful chicks. Perhaps the most legend (wait for it) dary playboy is How I Met Your Mother’s, Barney Stinson, played by actor Neil Patrick Harris. Even though the show ended, Barney’s smooth plays live on recorded in “The Playbook” for other bros to learn his d-bag techniques.

According to a 2012 study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, there’s a scientific explanation behind why beautiful and seemingly successful women pursue relationships with prototypical sexy cads—or attractive, dominant, charming men who simply won’t commit. And it has everything to do with hormones, instinct, puberty, and human evolution…

1. Women Are Naturally Drawn to Bad Boys

Researchers at Hartpury College, in Gloucestershire, England, decided it was worth uncovering why women are drawn to narcissistic males even though these men aren’t ideal partners. Or are they? The study monitored the romantic choices of British women, aged 18- to 28-years-old and found some mind-boggling results that actually make a little bit of sense.

Firstly, women intent on marriage were the most interested group in the Barney Stinson’s of the world. But why would women looking to settle down and have children be drawn to narcissistic, emotionally unavailable, short-term dating males? Study authors found out that the reason for attraction lies in the qualities of the “narcissistic personality”, many qualities that relate to status and the ability to provide—namely authority, high confidence, and courage.

2. Ovulation Transforms Cads to Dads

Female hormones have been blamed for everything from crazed mood swings to insatiable hunger cravings, but it turns out that hormonal chances might also cause women to swoon for Mr. Right Now instead of Mr. Right. The reason is that ovulation causes women to believe bad boy players will stick around despite their track records of unfaithfulness and abandonment.

A series of studies, conducted by a group of psychologists from the University of Minnesota; Linfield College; and the University of Texas, San Antonio; showed this faith is caused by ovulatory-induced hormonal changes that put physically attractive, charismatic men versus reliable and nice guys in a committed light. This is what makes women see cads as potential life partners and devoted dads.


3. Puberty and the Preference for Players

In addition to ovulation, it turns out that the hot or not game is a simple fact of female nature. For instance, the onset of puberty for women also determined their preference for jerks vs. nice guys.

Looking back at the 2012 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, this instinctual draw to d-bags is largely perpetuated by women who go through puberty early. Together with the ovulation, women can blame their pursuit of the charismatic, non-committal jerk on evolution.

4. Experienced Women Love D-bags

You would think that a few experiences with jerks would drive women screaming from narcissistic d-bags like Barney Stinson. However, these studies undeniably prove that women who’ve had more romantic partners actually seek out sexy cads compared to women with fewer romantic partners.

So despite a past wrought with heartbreak from uncommitted, charismatic cads, women with greater “mating experience” come to desirable jerks even after they’ve been burned before. Thank goodness there’s a never-ending array of fresh d-bags on Tinder!


5. Do Nice Guys Really Finish Last?

A study from the University of Texas’ College of Business, at San Antonio, found that, indeed, nice guys do finish dead when put up against bad boys on dating sites. The study monitored the activity of a group of ovulating women while they browsed fake online dating profiles. Interestingly, while fertile, the women opted for unstable, commitment-phobic, confident studs over seemingly stable and reliable average-looking dudes.

The reason: during their fertile peak, women are drawn to men who will produce the strongest children—despite their other jerky qualities. As the women scanned dating profiles they admitted to seeking out physical attractiveness, deep voices, manly chiseled jaws, and confidence as the sure signs of stellar genes. Whereas, they viewed their modest, less confident counterparts as less proficient mates and potential fathers.

6. It’s Just a Jerk Phase…

However, nice guys should keep in mind that despite the head-scratching reasons for this female draw to dirt bags—the women in this study were mainly in their early to mid twenties. That means it’s very possible to seek out heartbreakers during a time when they’re not very concerned with marriage and offspring.

A 2010, researcher study from Florida Atlantic University reminds us that while younger women tend to pursue the Barney Stinson’s of the world, as they emotionally mature and feel the urge to settle down, both homosexual and heterosexual women tend to desire a kind, smart, emotionally available, and financially stable mate over a physically attractive, egotistical bad boy.

…In the meantime, you may want to pick up a copy of Barney Stinson’s Playbook!