Are Men Attracted to Smart Women?

Are Men Attracted to Smart Women?


There is an old truism that men are not interested in clever women. You might think in this progressive era that is no longer true, but you would be wrong. A new study confirms what your mother may have told you, all those years ago.

Researcher Adam Karbowski and his team from the Warsaw School of Economics examined data from a Columbia University speed-dating experiment that involved more than 500 students. Both men and women participated in a speed-dating event. Following each date, the participants voted “yes” or “no” as to whether they would like to meet their data a second time. At the same time, they rated the date on a 10-point scale for physical attractiveness and intelligence.

The researchers first looked at the women’s choices. As might be expected, women tended to choose handsome men for a second date. But women also choose based on intelligence; if an unattractive men was rated as intelligent, he still had a good chance of being marked “yes.”

The analysis showed that women consider both traits in making their decision. Naturally, a man who is considered both attractive and intelligent had an advantage. And attractiveness was weighted more highly by women than intelligence.

Karbowski’s analysis of male choice suggests that women are not as particular as men. Women who are rated low on the attractiveness scale have very little chance of being chosen. But an increase in one point on the attractiveness scale tends to cause men to give the woman an extra point in intelligence, leading the researchers to comment that men value beauty over brains.

Karbowski’s most interesting finding is that there is a definite point at which men cease valuing a woman’s increasing intelligence. Women react as as though more is better: a man’s chance of being chosen is higher if he is more attractive and more intelligent. This is not true for men.

As the article in Psychology Today explains:

To illustrate this, let’s track the chances of one woman being chosen by a man at a speed-dating event. Say this woman scores a 6 out of 10 for attractiveness—about average. Now, if her intelligence rating is a lowly 2 out of 10, she has only a 20 percent chance of being chosen. Let’s imagine that her intelligence increases 2 points, to 4 out of 10: now her chances are 30 percent. Boost her intelligence by another 2 points to 6 out of 10, and she now has a 40 percent shot. But a further 2 intelligence points have virtually no effect – she is still at 40 percent. And maxing her intelligence to 10 out of 10 reduces her odds of being chosen, back to 30 percent!

The study shows that men seem to feel the optimum intelligence level for women is 7 out of 10. If a woman is very attractive, it may be slighter higher. If she is less attractive, the optimum level is a bit lower. But in every case, a woman who is highly intelligent will be less appealing to a man than a woman who is equally attractive, but not as smart.

The researchers speculate that women may just be more flexible than men in choosing a mate, but a separate study published in late 2015 postulates that men are less attracted to smart women because the potential comparison with their own intelligent threatens their egos. The authors of that study say:

When evaluating psychologically near targets (e.g., in real interactions, spatially near interactions), men may be less attracted to women who outperform them, and this could be due to momentary shifts in their self-evaluations (e.g., feeling less masculine from being outsmarted by a woman).