A new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that men often feel threatened if their girlfriends or wives perform better than them, even in tasks which they are not doing together.
The study was conducted by University of Florida's Kate Ratliff who, along with her colleague Shigehiro Oishi, of the University of Virginia, conducted a series of five experiments on undergraduate students to test how their romantic partner's success or failure affected their self esteem.
The students were informed whether their partners had scored in the top 12 percent or bottom 12 percent of all university students though their own scores were not revealed. They were also made to go through Implicit Association Test, where a person's feelings are gauged by rapid word associations on a computer screen. The researchers found that male students who were told their partners scored in the top 12 percent displayed lower implicit self-esteem though such a difference was not seen among women whose partners scored high or low.
"It makes sense that a man might feel threatened if his girlfriend outperforms him in something they're doing together, such as trying to lose weight. But this research found evidence that men automatically interpret a partner's success as their own failure, even when they're not in direct competition", Ratliff said.