Men Feel Bad Around Smart, Successful Women - Pacific Standard

Men Feel Bad Around Smart, Successful Women

But the self-esteem of women is unaffected by the success of their male partners, according to new research.
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(ILLUSTRATION: CARLA CASTAGNO/SHUTTERSTOCK)

(ILLUSTRATION: CARLA CASTAGNO/SHUTTERSTOCK)

In a study contending for most-depressing-research-of-the-year, psychologists Kate Ratliff and Shigehiro Oishi tested how a romantic partner’s success or failure affects the self-esteem of people in heterosexual relationships. The short story: men feel bad about themselves when good things happen to their female partners. Women’s self-esteem is unaffected. Here’s some of the data.

The vertical axis represents self-esteem. In this experiment, respondents were told that their partner scored high on a test of intelligence (“positive feedback”) or low (“negative feedback”). The leftmost bars show that men who were told that their partners were smart reported significantly lower self-esteem than those who heard that their partners weren’t so smart.

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In the second condition, respondents were asked to imagine a partner’s success or failure. Doing so had no effect on women’s self-esteem (rightmost bars). For men, however, imagining their partners’ success made them feel bad about themselves, whereas imagining their failure made them feel good.

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The various experiments were conducted with American and Dutch college students as well as a diverse Internet sample. The findings were consistent across populations and were particularly surprising in the context of the Netherlands, which is generally believed to be more gender egalitarian.

We’ve got a long way to go.

This post originally appeared onSociological Images, a Pacific Standard partner site.

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