Saturday, January 21, 2012

Bring on the Stupid

Have you ever tried to talk to a guy when he's talked to a pretty woman? It's like talking to a brick wall. He's got eyes, and other parts, only for her. If a bomb were to drop at his feet he might not even notice. It is so common an occurrence that books and movies frequently feature men who are trying hard to impress a beautiful woman and in so doing manage to be at their clumsiest, most forgetful, and dumbest. So I suppose that it was only a matter of time before there was a study about it.

A couple of previous studies have shown that men's cognitive performance is depleted after a short interaction with an attractive woman, particularly if the man is trying hard to impress her. This behavior has been shown to be taxing on the brain because they are trying so hard to control and manage their behavior. Merely anticipating an interaction with a woman can render a man virtually brain dead. Then there's what are called "pseudo-interactions" in which a man and woman do not communicate face-to-face (telephone, Internet, texting, etc.). In our technologically advancing world, these pseudo-interactions are becoming more and more commonplace. Anticipating an interaction and pseudo-interactions are similar in that men frequently know little to nothing about they woman they are (or will be) corresponding with, and if they have not yet met he has no idea if she is attractive or single or whatever. One of the aims of the paper in today's post was to determine if men's cognitive performance decreased after one of these pseudo-interactions with a woman. The second part of the study looked at anticipation and a man's motivation to make a good impression.

The first experiment expected that men would perform worse on simple tasks after a pseudo-interaction with someone of the opposite sex than after a pseudo-interaction with someone of their own sex. They found that women were not influenced. Men, however, showed a decline in cognitive performance after interaction with a woman even though there was no actual face-to-face contact, and they didn't even know what she looked like. The second experiment expected that men (but not women) would perform worse at simple tasks if they anticipated a mixed-sex interaction than if they anticipated a same-sex interaction. Again, females were not influenced. They found that just the anticipation of interacting with a woman influenced a man's cognitive performance, and it wasn't in the positive direction.

What did we learn from this study? Something as small as mentioning a female name instead of a male name is enough to make men dumber (at least temporarily). Add to that, sitting in the same room with a woman, talking to her on the phone, chatting with her online, or just anticipating that he might meet up with a woman is enough to render a man thinking-impotent.

Guys, it's truly amazing you function at all.

Read the complete study here:
Nauts, Sanne, et al. (2010) The mere anticipation of an interaction with a woman can impair men's cognitive performance. Archives of Sexual Behavior: published online 01 November 2011. (DOI: 10.1007/s10508-011-9860-z)

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