Men, do smart women threaten your masculinity? A new study suggests they might — and that you might not want to date them because of it.
While men say they like the idea of dating a woman who’s smarter than they are, when it comes time to meet her, they’re less keen on the brainy lady, a study that will be published in the November journal “Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin” reveals.
For their research, the psychologists conducted various studies on male undergraduate students. They asked 105 men to read a hypothetical scenario about women who had either scored higher or lower than them on a recent exam, and then rank their attractiveness. In addition to rating the women, the men were asked to fill out a survey to measure how much they personally related to various stereotypical male qualities.
Results revealed that, in general, men “formed favorable impressions and showed greater interest” in the women who had performed better than them, rather than those who performed worse. Eighty-six percent of these men also said that they would feel comfortable dating someone smarter than themselves, and none exhibited an effect on the way they evaluated their masculine qualities.
However, the second part of the study – when men were asked if they would date such a woman in real life – showed that the men got cold feet. “[Men faced in this real life scenario] distanced themselves more from her, tended to rate her as less attractive, and showed less desire to exchange contact information or plan a date with her”.
Faced with actually meeting a female who was smarter than they were, the men “distanced themselves more from her, tended to rate her as less attractive, and showed less desire to exchange contact information or plan a date with her,” the study revealed. (Similarly, a study published in the “Quarterly Journal of Economics,” which looked at people who were speed dating, found that “men do not value women’s intelligence or ambition when it exceeds their own,” though in this case it was ambition that significantly turned them off from a woman.)
Put simply: In a hypothetical scenario (one in which the man will never meet the woman), men showed greater attraction toward a woman who was smarter than them, but when they are faced with actually meeting a more intelligent woman, they showed less attraction and desire to date her.
While these results do not necessarily mean that all men are threatened by more intelligent women, they do shed an interesting light on the dynamic between what we say we want and what we really want. They also suggest that a date’s body language, rather than how they converse, may be the best indicator of their level of interest.
While the authors behind the study caution that more experimentation may be needed to confirm the conclusion, they do believe that “feelings of diminished masculinity accounted for men’s decreased attraction toward women who outperformed them.”
Who knew masculinity could be so fragile?