When female partners succeed, men’s egos get hurt

Men’s subconscious self-esteem may be bruised when their spouse or girlfriend excels – even when they are not in direct competition – a new study has found. Researchers found that men were more likely to feel subconsciously worse about themselves when their female partner succeeded than when she failed. However, women’s self-esteem was not affected by their male partners’ successes or failures, according to the study published in the American Psychological Association Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

“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,” said the study’s lead author, Kate Ratliff, of the University of Florida. “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. The researchers studied 896 heterosexual Americans and Dutch in five experiments.

In one experiment, 32 couples from the University of Virginia were given what was described as a “test of problem solving and social intelligence,” and then told that their partner scored either in the top or bottom 12% of all university students. Hearing that their partner scored high or low on the test did not affect what the researchers called participants’ explicit self-esteem. Participants were also given a test to determine how they felt subconsciously about their partners’ performance. which the researchers called implicit self-esteem. In this test, men who believed that their partner scored in the top 12% demonstrated lower implicit self esteem than men who believed their partner scored in the bottom 12%.

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