The male ego is a tender creature, science has confirmed. A new study found that while men (presumably straight ones, anyway) find women who are more intelligent than them attractive in theory, they balk when it comes to actually dating these ladies.

Researchers at the University of Buffalo, California Lutheran University, and the University of Texas at Austin confirmed the old truism that men are intimidated by intelligent women in a study to be published in the November edition of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

To conduct their study, the researchers enlisted 105 men and read them a hypothetical scenario in which a woman either outperformed or underperformed them in a math or English course, and then instructed the men to imagine this woman as a romantic partner, Market Watch reports. Given this scenario, the men generally ranked the woman that bested them as the more desirable partner. "Men formed favorable impressions and showed greater interest in women who displayed more (versus less) intelligence than themselves," the study concluded.

But that wasn't the whole picture. In the second part of the study, the men were given what appeared to be an intelligence test, and then told that they were about to meet a woman who had either scored better or worse than they had on the test. The men who were told they were about to meet a more intelligent woman "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 study said.

The reason, the researchers concluded, is that men feel their masculinity under threat when faced with live interaction with more intelligent women. "Feelings of diminished masculinity accounted for men’s decreased attraction toward women who outperformed them in the live interaction context," the researchers wrote.

While the researchers caution that more research is needed to confirm their conclusions, their findings do echo previous studies, such as a 2013 report in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that found that men experienced lower self-esteem in the face of the success of their wives or girlfriends. 

#MasculinitySoFragile.

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