A new study has found that the goal to be romantically desirable leads a woman to distance herself from science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Lead author Lora E. Park, PhD, UB associate professor of psychology and her co-authors, found converging support for the idea that when romantic goals are activated, either by environmental cues or personal choice, women-but not men-show less interest in STEM and more interest in feminine fields, such as the arts, languages and English.
Park says, "When the goal to be romantically desirable is activated, even by subtle situational cues, women report less interest in math and science.
One reason why this might be is that pursuing intelligence goals in masculine fields, such as STEM, conflicts with pursuing romantic goals associated with traditional romantic scripts and gender norms."
Park notes that women, in particular, are socialized from a young age to be romantically desirable, and that traditional romantic scripts in Western cultures are highly gendered, prescribing how men and women ought to think, feel and behave in romantic settings.
In Park's studies of more than 350 participants, men and women were exposed to images (Study 1) or overheard conversations (Study 2a, 2b) that cued them to romantic goals or to other types of goals.
Results showed that women (but not men) exposed to cues related to romantic goals reported less positive attitudes toward STEM and less preference for majoring in math or science fields compared to other disciplines. This did not occur when they were exposed to cues associated with intelligence goals or friendship goals.
The study will be published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.