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Or he may have difficulty with intimacy or some other issue she could have no way of knowing about. She wanted to know if she had done something to drive him away.As she went over their conversation in her mind, she realized there was one thing that stood out—though she did not want to believe it.In those tests, male participants were asked to evaluate their sense of masculinity in the situations in which they had been outsmarted or outperformed in front of a woman who might have been a potential romantic interest.

Lora Park, a social psychologist at the University of Buffalo, and her colleagues Ariana Young and Paul Eastwick studied the reactions of men to women they experienced as smarter than them and found an interesting phenomenon that might very well explain what happened between Sara and John.“He knew what I did for a living, because I listed it on my profile.But he made a comment about something in my field, and I responded with some information from a research paper I had just published,” she told me.“And it was right after that that he told me that he had to go.” Sara is a scientist with several advanced degrees. But I’m also used to guys outside of work being intimidated by what I do.” When she was younger, she had gotten used to guys rejecting her as a possible girlfriend because they thought she was too serious, too scholarly, or too smart. Years ago, Sara’s mother told her, “If you want to find a husband, don’t be too smart.” Sara had discounted the advice as old fashioned, and anti-feminist.Her previous long-term boyfriend not only did not seem bothered by her intelligence; he seemed to enjoy it.In a different study, the researchers put male college students in a room to take a test with a college-aged woman who was, in fact, a “confederate” or “plant” of the team.

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