Men may claim that they prefer women who are smarter than them, but a new study suggests this is only true in theory.
Researchers from the University at Buffalo in upstate New York surveyed over 650 young men about potential relationships. Respondents were presented with hypothetical women as well as asked about women they expected to meet. They were also asked to take part in “interpersonal interaction” with women.
Psychology professor Lora Park was the study’s principal investigator. She said that they found that “men preferred women who are smarter than them in psychologically distant [or hypothetical] situations”. This appeared to confirm the results of a study published earlier this year which suggested that men seek out “more intellectual” partners.
However, when they spent time in the company of smarter women, men “distanced themselves and were less attracted” to them, Professor Park added. The study revealed a “disconnect between what people appear to like in the abstract when someone is unknown” and how they react to those qualities in person.
She said that the “domain” or area in which a woman is intelligent also makes a difference. If she excels in an area or subject that is not important to him, he “might not be threatened”, but if he cares about the domain, he might “feel threatened when that person gets close”.
The study was published in the latest edition of the academic journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.