The more creative a person is, the more sexual partners they are likely to have, according to a pioneering study which could explain the behaviour of notorious womanisers such as poets Lord Byron and Dylan Thomas.
The research, by the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and the Open University in the UK, found that professional artists and poets have around twice as many sexual partners as those who do not indulge in these creative activities.
The authors also delved into the personalities of artists and poets and found they shared certain traits with mentally ill patients. These traits were linked with an increased sexual activity and are thought to have evolved because they contribute to the survival of the human species.
Some 425 British men and women, including a sample of visual artists and poets and schizophrenic patients, were surveyed for the report, which is published in the academic journal, The Proceedings of the Royal Society (B). Although creative types have long been associated with increased sexual activity, this the first time that this link has been proved by research.
Study participants filled in questionnaires which asked about their degree of creative activity in poetry and visual art, their psychiatric history, and their history of sexual encounters since the age of 18. They were also required to answer questions on a 'schizotypy inventory', a breakdown of characteristics linked with schizophrenic patients.
The average number of sexual partners for professional artists and poets was between four and ten, compared with a mean of three for non-creative types. Statistics also showed the average number of sexual partners rose in line with an increase in the amount of creative activity a person took part in.
The lead author of the study, Dr Daniel Nettle, lecturer in psychology with Newcastle University's School of Biology, suggested two key reasons for the findings. He said: "Creative people are often considered to be very attractive and get lots of attention as a result. They tend to be charismatic and produce art and poetry that grabs people's interest.
"It could also be that very creative types lead a bohemian lifestyle and tend to act on more sexual impulses and opportunities, often purely for experience's sake, than the average person would. Moreover, it's common to find that this sexual behaviour is tolerated in creative people. Partners, even long-term ones, are less likely to expect loyalty and fidelity from them."
Dr Nettle added that the results suggested an evolutionary reason for why certain personality traits that serious artists and poets were found to share with schizophrenic patients perpetuated in society.
He added: "These personality traits can manifest themselves in negative ways, in that a person with them is likely to be prone to the shadows of full-blown mental illness such as depression and suicidal thoughts. This research shows there are positive reasons, such as their role in mate attraction and species survival, for why these characteristics are still around."
Yet although some 'schizotypal' traits are linked with high numbers of partners, schizophrenic patients do not experience this level of sexual activity. Dr Nettle said these people tend to suffer from acute social withdrawal and emotional flatness - characteristics that the researchers found were linked with a reduced number of sexual partners.