In one set of studies (Park, Young, Troisi, & Pinkus, in press), my collaborators and I examined the impact of everyday romantic goal strivings on women’s attitudes toward Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). We hypothesized that women (but not men) would show less interest in STEM when the goal to be romantically desirable is activated, because pursuing intelligence goals in masculine domains may conflict with the goal to be romantically desirable. Consistent with hypotheses, women (but not men) who viewed images (Study 1) or overheard a conversation (Study 2) related to romantic goals expressed less favorable attitudes toward STEM than women who were exposed to images or conversations related to intelligence goals. A daily diary study (Study 3) further revealed that on days when women pursued romantic goals, the more desirable they felt and the more romantic activities they engaged in, but the fewer math course activities they engaged in. In addition, the more women pursued romantic goals on the previous day, the more desirable they felt, but the fewer math course activities they engaged in on the following day.
In another set of studies (Park, Troisi, Young, & Eastwick, under review), women (but not men) who preferred romantic partners who were smarter than themselves endorsed both personal and societal beliefs that women who are less intelligent than men in masculine domains are romantically desirable (Study 1). Indeed, the more women preferred a smarter partner, the worse they performed on a math test (Studies 2-3) and expressed less identification with math, but not with the arts (Study 3) when romantic desirability goals were activated.
Together, the findings from the studies thus far suggest that women’s goal pursuits related to romantic desirability and intelligence goals have important implications for predicting interest and performance in STEM fields.
Park, L., Young, A., Troisi, J., and Pinkus, R. (in press). Effects of everyday romantic goal pursuit on women’s attitudes toward math and science. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.