Intelligence is sexy, and that is a known fact, one that even men agree to. Any person would prefer an intelligent partner to a dumb one. But funny fact – according to a new study, if you were to introduce a man to a smart woman, he would most probably change his mind.
The study has shown that men seem to prefer women who are smart and capable but only in theory. Called (Psychological) Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder, the study focuses on how being distant psychologically can affect our partiality toward different characteristics of a person.
When tests were carried out on subjects who were psychologically distant, it was found that their focus leaned toward how desirable the different characteristics of their partner’s personality were, and those qualities which the subject found better than themselves were the ones preferred.
But when the subject was brought in contact with the prospective partner, their whole view changed. Where once the preference had been in comparison to their own selves, it now moved to trying to determine if the partner would find the subject attractive.
As such, men do find women who are intelligent more attractive when they are not around prospective partners, but when they did come in contact with one, they would feel inadequate and undermined if the woman had an intelligence higher than them.
Conducted by over 650 men, the study placed the subjects in six different scenarios for their research.
Dr. Lora Parker, the study’s author, concluded that men found partners who were distant psychologically, such as in online chat rooms, very attractive if they were intellectually superior to them. But coming face to face with the same women made them change their perceptions, as their preference for the women’s intelligence suddenly dropped. When the prospective partners outperformed the men, they would find their interest in them fade.
Dr. Parker suggested that one of the reasons why this could be happening was because the woman’s superior intellect might make the men go through a ‘change in their own self-evaluations’. This means that the men feel put down, or emasculated, which would make the intelligence of the woman suddenly seem unattractive.
In a real-life scenario, our perceptions of certain characteristics change hugely when we actually come face to face with someone who does have those characteristics, depending on how those characteristics make us feel about our own selves. This happens in cases where the ‘domain’ affects our own self-image, in this case, the intelligence of the opposite sex.
As Dr. Parker said, if the domain is not something that affects us, we would not feel that it threatens us, and our perception of it would remain unchanged.
This means that men who like to feel smart and intelligent will be affected deeply by women who are smarter than themselves. Even if they claim to like intelligence in their partners, they would not get attracted to one in reality.
It remains to be seen what women have to say about this.
The study was published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (Park et al., 2015).