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Why interacting with women leaves men cognitively impared

  1. Mar 13, 2012 #1
    ''Movies and television shows are full of scenes where a man tries unsuccessfully to interact with a pretty woman. In many cases, the potential suitor ends up acting foolishly despite his best attempts to impress. It seems like his brain isn’t working quite properly and according to new findings, it may not be.

    Researchers have begun to explore the cognitive impairment that men experience before and after interacting with women. A 2009 study demonstrated that after a short interaction with an attractive woman, men experienced a decline in mental performance. A more recent study suggests that this cognitive impairment takes hold even when men simply anticipate interacting with a woman who they know very little about.''


    Perhaps it will help some guys to know that any nerves you feel about talking to a girl really are just in your head. You may be thinking she won't like you for this or that reason, but really you're just psyching yourself out. Go for it confidently and see what happens, odds are you're just nervous for no good reason.

    Incidentally, this might be a cue for particularly nervous guys to have some ''canned openers'' ready at any moment, so that at the very beginning of a conversation you don't actually have to think.

    Though this is also probably a reason that so many women list ''confidence'' as one of the traits they find most attractive, since it seems men are hardwired to not even be able to talk normally around most women. A man who acts like its no big deal to talk to a chick (it isn't) seems super suave in comparison to stammering nervous guys.
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 14, 2012 #2
    "A 2009 study demonstrated that after a short interaction with an attractive woman, men experienced a decline in mental performance."
    I really want to know how did they measured this.Did they make them solve PDE's or QM problems before and after the attractive women showed up?
  4. Mar 15, 2012 #3
    I think it happens the other way round too... girls get tongue-tied and super shy as well.
  5. Mar 15, 2012 #4
    The study, as well as real-life observations, confirms that women are less socially awkward than men. Not that they won't get shy or tongue-tied, but that it just isn't on the same level as men.

    They had students do a Stroop test, wherein you're presented with text like this and have to say the color of the ink, not the printed word:


    After doing it unobserved, they were told that a person would then observe them doing it through a webcam, given either a male or female name. When men were told they'd be observed by females, their results were worse.

    From the article:

    Sanne Nauts and her colleagues at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands ran two experiments using men and women university students as participants. They first collected a baseline measure of cognitive performance by having the students complete a Stroop test. Developed in 1935 by the psychologist John Ridley Stroop, the test is a common way of assessing our ability to process competing information. The test involves showing people a series of words describing different colors that are printed in different colored inks. For example, the word “blue” might be printed in green ink and the word “red” printed in blue ink. Participants are asked to name, as quickly as they can, the color of the ink that the words are written in. The test is cognitively demanding because our brains can’t help but process the meaning of the word along with the color of the ink. When people are mentally tired, they tend to complete the task at a slower rate.

    After completing the Stroop Test, participants in Nauts’ study were asked to take part in another supposedly unrelated task. They were asked to read out loud a number of Dutch words while sitting in front of a webcam. The experimenters told them that during this “lip reading task” an observer would watch them over the webcam. The observer was given either a common male or female name. Participants were led to believe that this person would see them over the web cam, but they would not be able to interact with the person. No pictures or other identifying information were provided about the observer—all the participants knew was his or her name. After the lip reading task, the participants took another Stroop test. Women’s performance on the second test did not differ, regardless of the gender of their observer. However men who thought a woman was observing them ended up performing worse on the second Stroop test. This cognitive impairment occurred even though the men had not interacted with the female observer.
  6. Mar 15, 2012 #5
    So if you are colorblind you don't get more dumb around women?:biggrin:
  7. Mar 16, 2012 #6
    I've had some girls tell me this. When they are around men they think are attractive they go quiet and withdraw. When they're boisterous and outgoing it means they're not attracted to the guys they're with.
  8. Mar 16, 2012 #7
    I can definitely vouch for this.

    When I was at a convention with the woman I loved, we were stopped by some representatives from a local university who asked us to guess the number of marbles in a container for a prize. She just walked away, but I got into a conversation with them.

    The entire time I was worried we would be separated in the crowd, and I could barely think straight.

    And even though I sincerely tried to guess correctly: thinking about it later, I know that I seriously over estimated the number (by like millions--it was a gumball machine of sorts).

    This used to happen a lot, whenever I was around her. I could barely speak honestly.
  9. Mar 16, 2012 #8


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    Why don't they do a real study of male/female interaction as it relates to the performance of individuals of opposite sex working and interacting together as firefighters, officers of the peace, politicians, airline pilots, astronauts, doctors, ... , and see if cognitive ability is affected in any way.
  10. Mar 16, 2012 #9


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    I'd say that most of these situations are far too complex to set up in a "controlled" way, as would be required by any serious study.
  11. Mar 17, 2012 #10


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    And then there's the counter point: Quaternions occurring to William Hamilton as he was out on a moonlight stroll with his wife.

    More importantly, which would be more likely to increase a male's chances getting lucky: decreased cognitive performance (carving his sweetheart's name into the bridge) or increased cognitive performance (carving the equation for quaternions into the bridge)?

    Could it be that males' cognitive performance actually increases, but it usually takes the form of increased situational awareness and the goal at hand instead of the traditional feats of cognitive performance?
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2012
  12. Mar 17, 2012 #11


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    Which is what I was trying to point out by my previous post regarding male/ female interaction in real life situations. The researchers asign the degraded scores to decreased cognaitive ablility but is the correlation absolute.
  13. Mar 17, 2012 #12


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    My post was a was a kind of tongue in check response as I can see ultra-conservatives using the simplistic conclusion of such a study as a means to attempt to ban women from pursuing carreers or exploits on the grounds that the presance of a woman will interfer with the ability of a man to function properly and correclty.
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