Dating Woes

Are men attracted to smarter women? Study with Texas ties reveals surprising truth.

Are men attracted to smart women? Study with Texas ties reveals truth.

Couple on a date
Men are attracted to smarter women — in theory. Courtesy photo

We have some sobering dating news: A new study finds that although men like the idea of a smarter woman, they're less attracted in real life. 

The study is the result of a collaboration among researchers from the University of Texas at Austin, University of Buffalo, and California Lutheran University. They studied responses from 105 men who were given two different scenarios about smarter women. In the first, men were simply asked to imagine being with a smarter woman. In the second, men were confronted with actually meeting her.

Men rated smarter women as more desirable in the first scenario. But in the second — which provided a more practical setting for meeting the smart woman — the study reports that 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 term is "psychologically distancing." When presented with the hypothetical situation, male participants were more attracted to the women that scored higher than the men on subject-based tests. However, when the situation was more realistic (or psychologically near), participants were less attracted to women that scored higher than they did on an intelligence test.

This doesn't mean that all men find smarter women less appealing. The study just confirms a theory that females have been suspicious of for a while: Guys feel threatened by smart women, whether they realize it or not.

In a nutshell: "Feelings of diminished masculinity accounted for men's decreased attraction toward women who outperformed them in the live interaction context."

You can read the full study in the November edition of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin or check out this breakdown of the report in MarketWatch.