A 2015 study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that “psychological distance” makes an intelligent woman more attractive.
It found that, despite some heterosexual men’s claims that they would prefer a woman who was more intelligent, when confronted with one, men showed less affection for a woman who outsmarted them or displayed high intelligence.
“Psychological distance” is a state related to making decisions or opinions about someone or something – indirectly, hypothetically.
While previous studies on attraction have suggested that proximity makes someone more attractive, the University at Buffalo study found the opposite when the woman was smarter than the man (especially if he had previously claimed to be attracted to that quality).
650 respondents participated in six studies conducted by associate professor Laura Park.
According to the new findings and observations, when men expected to interact with a woman who was spatially distant (eg in another room), they expressed a greater desire to interact with her.
However, when men interacted with an actual woman who was spatially close (eg, in a face-to-face interaction), they would show less desire to interact with her when she demonstrated that she could outperform him in some sense.
Park suggested that when men interact with a woman who is smarter than them, they may feel “a momentary jolt to their self-evaluation, which makes them less attracted to that woman.”
Studies have also found that this disconnect between the abstract and the actual meeting with a woman only holds true when it comes to the factor of intelligence, and that in women.
All six studies focused on heterosexual men’s opinions of women, so it’s up to future research to find out if the same disconnect applies to women’s attraction to men.
Research of this type has not been done with homosexuals.
A subsequent study led by Park, conducted in 2016, found that women’s preference for a male partner who was more intelligent than them prevented women from advancing in fields such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, that second study found that women working in certain industries were willing to seemingly “downgrade their intelligence” to pursue romantic goals.
It has also been found that women who prefer more intelligent men will be less interested in a career in science, technology and engineering once they have achieved the goal of attracting such a man.
The same, according to research, did not apply to men.