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Why Do Women Avoid Men Of High Intelligence?

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Why do women avoid men of high intelligence?


I once asked the noted anthropologist Donald Symons (University of California in Santa Barbara), and the evolutionary psychologists David Buss (University of Texas) and David C. Geary (University of Missouri) this rather quite interesting question:


The French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau once said: "Women, in general, are not attracted to art at all, nor knowledge, and not at all to genius." A close personal acquaintance of mine seems to believe that most women are physically repelled by men of high intelligence because most women are seeking a man who can be easily manipulated mentally into handing over whatever natural resources he is capable of commanding. He has also informed me that the more highly intelligent a man is, the greater will be his risk of having to endure a lifetime of perpetual celibacy given the statistical rarity of female intellectuals and the fact that "likes generally tend to attract likes" (women, being generally average in intelligence, pursue men who are similarly average in mental capacity). Certain studies would seem to bear this out; for example, a study conducted by C.T. Halpern et al (2000) suggests that "higher intelligence operates as a protective factor against early sexual activity in adolescence and lower intelligence, to a point, is a risk factor." A number of writers, such as Clifford Pickover (Strange Brains) and Cesare Lombroso (The Man of Genius) before him, have also suggested that both intellectual giftedness and especially genius are highly correlated with celibacy, even gynophobia. I must admit that much of what my friend says seems to be true; it always seems to be the most highly intelligent males who have the most amount of difficulty attracting even a woman of average physical appearance. After all, if we are to believe Lombroso, most of the great geniuses of history were either celibate or endured miserable home lives. Is it true that most women find smart men to be intellectually threatening and run from them as fast as possible? Is there a strong connection between high intelligence in the male and misogyny? What do you think, Professor?


Dr. Symons responded:


Here are a few observations re your questions.


Human intelligence increased dramatically over several million years of evolution, which wouldn't have happened if intelligent men were at a reproductive disadvantage.


Studies of women's mating criteria consistently show that intelligence is valued by women (cf David Buss's books on human mating). Intelligence is near, but not at the top of the list, and there's no reason to suppose that high intelligence by iteself can compensate for other deficits. Furthermore, other female mating criteria, such as high status, economic prowess and being funny correlate positively (though, of course,imperfectly) with intelligence. I would guess that geniuses like Newton, who is not known to ever have had sex with a woman, were celibate by choice, because of odd character quirks, and not because they were too intelligent to be attractive. Einstein certainly did well with women, and it sure wasn't because of the remorseless precision of his profile.


Studies of preliterate peoples have consistently shown that headmen and shamans, who tend to have more wives and children, are regularly described as unusually intelligent. These are the societies that most closely resemble those that obtained during most of human evolution. And in modern industrialized societies, which diverge in many ways from the environment of evolutionary adaptedness, upper classes have fewer children because they choose to and have the means to (reliable contraceptives), not because upper class men can't find wives or other sexual partners.


The anthropologist April Gorry analyzed the character traits of the heroes of 45 highly successful romance novels, written by and for women. Heroes were described as muscular (45/45), handsome (44), strong (42), large (35) and so forth, and no hero was described as the opposite of any of these things. Heroes also had various character traits, such as sexually bold (40), calm (39), confident (39), etc., and in 38 of the 45 novels he was explicitly described as intelligent. No hero was described as not having any of these traits or of being unintelligent. I find these data especially compelling, because women are voting for these books with their money, and the market will produce the kinds of romantic fantasies that women want to read.


In sum, I think that intelligence is a highly valued trait in men, and always has been, though it may not be number one on the list, and certainly can't compensate, for most women, if other highly desirable traits are absent.


Don Symons


Here is Dr. Geary’s reply:


Well, there are studies that suggest that women are attracted to these traits in men. But, there is a negative correlation between IQ and men’s reproductive success; positive correlation for income. My guess is that women do not want men who are too extreme on any trait; they want tall, but not too tall, e.g. This is probably true of IQ and for reasons you state. What is too extreme? I don’t know, but probably once you get passed the 145 range (3 standard deviations > mean), you’re probably getting there. Of course, someone this bright should be able to figure out how to cover this up, except when necessary.




David C. Geary, Ph.D.

University of Missouri


Here is the response of Dr. Buss:


Interesting thoughts, but they are not supported by my data, nor the studies of others. Women are indeed attracted to intelligent men, and in fact marry men on average 4 IQ points higher than their own. At the tails of the distribution, of course, one runs into trouble; so yes, at the very high ends, both men and women have problems finding someone they can talk to. Still, women are drawn to men smarter than they are; men are more willing to settle for a woman less intelligent, since they prioritize looks and other qualities more.


Thanks for the interesting questions.


David Buss


It has always been my personal experience that most women are frightened of men who are much more intellectual and more sophisticated than they are; all of the most intelligent/creative men I have ever known have always been year-round dateless wonders. Survey after survey seems to indicate that women value intelligence as a desirable personality characteristic to be found in a potential mate, however all of my friends have reliably informed me that discussing quantum mechanics, single nucleotide polymorphisms, or even the relative merits of Kantianist idealism over Hegelian dialectics is liable to have a woman quickly reaching for the front door than in any mood to take off her panties. In accordance with the foregoing, a large body of scientific research does suggest that there exists a sharp discrepancy between what a woman says she wants and what she actually does. After all, many women may verbalize a desire for intelligent male sex partners; unfortunately, I’ve even heard stories about harmless intellectuals (who are almost always men) driving away hordes of supposedly available women at parties simply by mentioning some esoterica concerning Einstein’s theory of special relativity or even something much more readily comprehensible as the novels of Thomas Hardy. So, I guess my question is, do women really avoid men who are highly intelligent? Why have generations of engineers, mathematicians, and more abstract philosophers always experienced considerable difficulties in attracting women (minus the expenditure of financial wealth)? Are women frightened of men who happen to be highly intelligent? Why do women find men of high intelligence to be so intimidating (and so repulsive as well)?


Your responses and input would be highly appreciated.

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OMG, dude... Really?


Women DON'T avoid men of high intelligence. Women don't do ANYTHING due only to their gender, and you YET AGAIN ignore individual differences and outliers. Looking at the threads you have started here, I'm getting the very real sense that you have some pretty profound mommy issues, and you should get some help. I really don't mean this as an attack, so I apologize if it comes across that way, but look into counseling. You have some incredibly flawed interpretations of research being done in the field of human pscychology, evolutionary or otherwise.


The response you got from those professors DIRECTLY contradicts your claim, yet you continue to hold it and pretend they have supported your contention.



Also, your approach ignores confounding variables. For example, those "smart guys" you knew who were "dateless wonders" probably played a role in this, likely devoting FAR more time to academic inquiry than to partying and drinking at bars and clubs where short term mating opportunities are found. In other words, nothing to do with the women or their response, and everything to do with the behavior of the male. Where is this accounted for in your approach? Oh yeah, it's not.

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There is no place for making vicious ad hominem attacks against others in the great halls of science. Either say something intelligent or don't say anything at all.

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