Men prefer smarter women, but only in theory, a new study finds.
When a real living, breathing smarter women is close by, men shy away, preferring women of lower intelligence.
Dr Lora Park, who led the study, said:
“There is a disconnect between what people appear to like in the abstract when someone is unknown and when that same person is with them in some immediate social context.”
The research tested the difference between abstract and actual intelligence.
Dr Park explained the results of the study:
“We found that men preferred women who are smarter than them in psychologically distant situations.
Men rely on their ideal preferences when a woman is hypothetical or imagined.
But in live interaction, men distanced themselves and were less attracted to a woman who outperformed them in intelligence.”
Perhaps we should avoid laying all the blame on men, though.
The study just happened to look at men’s attraction towards women, it didn’t examine women’s attraction towards men.
Dr Park said:
“That’s a question for future research.
But presumably, anyone who is outperformed by someone close to them might feel threatened themselves.
We just happened to look at men in a romantic dating context.”
In the research 650 young adults were given a range of different scenarios in six separate studies.
Some men were only shown profiles of women, others expected to meet women while some actually met women in real life.
Dr Park said:
“In each case, how much you like someone or how much you are attracted to them is affected by how intelligent that person is relative to you and how close that person is relative to you.”
But it’s vital that the quality — in this case intelligence — is important to you, said Dr Park:
“The domain matters.
If you don’t care about the domain, you might not be threatened.
Yet, if you care a lot about the domain, then you might prefer that quality in somebody who is distant, then feel threatened when that person gets close to you.”
So, in this case it seems intelligence really does matter.
The study was published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (Park et al., 2015).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
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