Instead, they suggest that humans are programmed to respond to changing environments and norms with great flexibility.

This flexibility allows people to do what sociocultural theorists have maintained for a long time: Select partners who minimize the costs and maximize the benefits that they will experience in their future lives,” Alice Eagly, professor of psychology and faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern, said in a press statement.

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Each activated a romantic goal and across the studies a pattern emerged that showed worse math performance, less identification with math and less interest in STEM careers for those women with traditional romantic partner preferences.“I was surprised by the fact that some women have this preference,” says Park.

“But I wasn’t surprised that this preference led to worse outcomes in these masculine fields.”Parks says it’s interesting that women who didn’t have this partner preference tended to show better STEM outcomes, suggesting the more non-traditional preference might contribute to greater interest in STEM.

It could be an automatic reaction.”Though women represent 48 percent of the overall U. workforce, they constitute only 24 percent of the country’s STEM workers, according to the Census Bureau’s 2009 Community Survey.“In general terms, women have made many advancements, but in certain fields of STEM they haven’t made that much progress,” says Park.

The published paper includes four studies, among them a preliminary study involving more than 900 participants that established a link between a preference for dating smarter partners and traditional gender roles.

While men used to be more attracted to looks and domestic traits of women, education and income have become increasingly important.

These are traits that women have long sought in men, but what’s new is that men are now choosing wives based on brains.

Women show greater preference for dating smarter partners compared to men and the more they endorsed this preference the more traditional they were in their gender roles.

The three additional studies examined math performance, math identification and interest in STEM when thinking about romantic goals.

“In today’s world, where both partners can (and often must) work to achieve a decent lifestyle, most men want an educated, intelligent wife who can earn a good wage,” Eagly said.