Some of the most harmful myths in dating revolve around the trait of female intelligence. On one hand, intelligent women may fear that men feel intimidated by them. This lowers self-confidence, and may even be used to excuse dating failures.
“It’s obvious that he didn’t call you again because he was intimidated by your intelligence and career success.”
On the other hand, men who don’t value intelligence in women claim that men hold either a neutral or negative view of smart women. They portray them as difficult, abrasive and lacking a nurturing quality.
“The last thing I want when I get home from work is an intellectually challenging debate. I prefer a sweet disposition and a home cooked meal.”
Fortunately, we now have several reliable sources of large data sets that prove the opposite. Smart men want to date smart women, and vice versa. Playing dumb to get a guy only works to get you a dumb guy.
2015 Singles in America Survey
Renowned anthropologist Helen Fisher’s annual Loveawake dating site survey for Match.com is the most comprehensive survey of singles, polling 5,675 respondents for their attitudes and behaviors related to dating. This year she conducted the study with evolutionary biologist Justin Garcia of the Kinsey Institute.
“According to the most recent census estimate, over a third of American adults are currently single–and after five years of interviewing them, my colleagues at Match and I have found definite patterns to how singles seek and find love, as well as their habits and attitudes,” said Dr. Helen Fisher, Match’s Chief Scientific Advisor.
The Clooney Effect
The most newsworthy finding so far is what Dr. Fisher has dubbed The Clooney Effect.
“Macho men and dependent women are history. More and more, men are seeking independent women and women are setting the tone in relationships.”
What Guys Want
- 44% seek an independent, career-driven woman
- 87% would date someone who’s more educated
- 44% wouldn’t date someone who’s less educated
- 87% would date someone who is more intellectual
- 86% want a confident and self-assured woman
- 39% would make a long-term commitment to a woman 10+ years older
- 87% would date a woman who makes more money
- 90% are OK with a woman asking them out
Note that nearly half of men want a woman with the same level of education. Half actually seek an independent woman who is successful in her career. That’s more than just a stated preference, that’s active filtering for high achieving women. And 9 out of 10 men are open to the idea, if not actually demanding it.
Are Women On the Same Page?
- 86% want a partner with the same level of intelligence
- 61% would not likely date someone who’s less intellectual
- 89% want a partner with a sense of independence
- 55% are not willing to support a partner financially
- 63% would not date a man who has considerable debt
Clearly, when it comes to intelligence, men’s and women’s wishes match up pretty closely. Those who prize intelligence in a mate are likely to pair off together, while the minority who denigrate female intelligence in a partner should presumably be able to match on that basis.
1 Million eHarmony Couples
A recent analysis of 1 million eHarmony matched couples by geneticist Emma Pierson at FiveThirtyEight further explains our strong preference to date someone similar.
“The data reveals a clear pattern: People are interested in people like themselves. Women on eHarmony favor men who are similar not just in obvious ways — age, attractiveness, education, income — but also in less apparent ones, such as creativity.
Even when eHarmony includes a quirky data point — like how many pictures are included in a user’s profile — women are more likely to message men similar to themselves. In fact, of the 102 traits in the data set, there was not one for which women were more likely to contact men with opposite traits.”
Indeed, eHarmony strives to match people with similar traits, having learned that “Opposites attract…and then attack.” The preference for similar mates follows two patterns, according to eHarmony:
“We can break down the general idea of “birds of a feather flock together” even further, into two patterns:
- The simple pattern: People who display a certain trait prefer other people who display that trait; people who don’t prefer people who don’t.
- The subtler pattern: Everyone prefers people with a certain trait, but people who have the trait themselves display a stronger preference for other people with that trait.”
Here’s what the analysis reveals about the specific preference for intelligence:
“For intelligence, women follow the first pattern: Those who describe themselves as intelligent prefer men who describe themselves as intelligent, and women who don’t prefer men who don’t.
Men follow the second pattern: All men prefer women who describe themselves as intelligent, but men who describe themselves as intelligent display a stronger preference.”
In other words, men select for intelligence even more than women do. Less intelligent women prefer less intelligent men. But all men filter for female intelligence, with the smart guys filtering more aggressively.
Selecting Similar Genes
Pierson works for the genetics company 23andMe, where she and a colleague analyzed the data of 15,000 couples who had children together. They found that 97% of all traits they identified were positively correlated in couples. People mated assortatively on everything from punctuality to being prone to apology and speaking a second language. It’s not surprising that they confirmed that people have children with partners who share the same level of education.
Smart women should take encouragement from these findings. Rather than being intimidated by intelligent women, smart men won’t settle for anything less. Keep in mind, though, that intelligence does not take the place of a good personality or polished physical presentation. If a guy doesn’t call you back for a second date, it’s unlikely your intelligence was the reason. Unless he’s a mimbo, that is.
In my own experience, the men I dated all chose me in part because they perceived me as very smart. They spoke of it with the same reverence they used in describing my physical assets. I’ve never heard a man in real life express a preference for less intelligent women, though such opinions are common online.
My readership is highly educated and intelligent. If you weren’t, you’d have no appetite for my wonky love of statistics and research.
How have men responded to your intelligence? Do your experiences confirm the findings here? Or have you been rejected for being too smart? Have you ever been involved with a less intelligent man? What was that like? Let’s discuss!