Journal of Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 46 Issue 3 (March 2016), Pages 141-200

Desirable but not smart: preference for smarter romantic partners impairs women's STEM outcomes (pages 158-179)


Although women today excel in many areas of society, they are often underrepresented in the traditionally male‐dominated fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). The present research examined whether traditional romantic partner preferences—specifically, a desire to date partners who are smarter than oneself—affects women's tendency to minimize their intelligence in STEM fields when pursuing romantic goals. Women (but not men) who preferred smarter romantic partners showed worse math performance (Studies 1–2), less identification with math (Study 2), and less interest in STEM careers (Study 3) when the goal to be romantically desirable was activated. A meta‐analysis across studies supported results. This research thus demonstrates that partner preferences influence women's STEM outcomes in response to romantic goal pursuit.

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