The findings come from a series of studies, funded in part by the National Science Foundation, that were undertaken to determine why women, who have made tremendous progress in education and the workplace over the past few decades, continue to be underrepresented at the highest levels of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
Lead author Lora Park, associate professor of psychology at the University at Buffalo, 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. The research is described in the article to be published in the September issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
“When the goal to be romantically desirable is activated, even by subtle situational cues, women report less interest in math and science,” says Park. “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.”