Dutch researchers found that men's ability to do cognitive tasks efficiently decreases significantly when around women. In layman's terms, men get dumber even when they only think women are around.
The study was conducted using a Stroop Test- used to determine the reaction time the brain takes to perform simple tasks- on men and women to see if the opposite sex had an effect on ability. While women's scores were unaffected by men, men's scores dropped dramatically when responding to a woman's presence.
"The present research showed that men's cognitive performance declined after they engaged in a pseudo-interaction with a woman (Study 1) or after they merely anticipated interacting with a woman (Study 2)," wrote the researchers, whose study is titled "The Mere Anticipation of an Interaction with a Woman Can Impair Men's Cognitive Performance."
The reference to studies 1 and 2 refer to the tests performed by the Behavioural Science Institute, located at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands.
In the first study, a lip-reading exercise, men performed worse when they thought they were being watched by women on a webcam, despite there being no woman there. Women's scores remained the same regardless.
A second study confirmed this, when just the pure anticipation of women watching them do the Stroop-like test caused men to perform far poorer than they had alone. Once again, women's scores remained steady.
The Dutch researchers theory behind the men dumbing down? Mating.
"Men seem so strongly attuned to mating opportunities that they were influenced by rather subtle cues to a woman, even in the absence of clear information about her," reported the study. They suggested that the thoughts of impending interaction- no matter how unlikely- could be a biological impetus behind the lower scores.
They also posited that the effects could stem to prejudices- an extremely prejudiced white person might have trouble cognitively around an African-American, for example, in an effort to appear politically correct. It was also proposed that homosexuals could suffer from the same effect around the same sex, although biologically, this is uncertain, as DNA proof of a "gay gene" is hotly debated.
The study was published in November of 2011.