If you're a guy who swipes right on Tinder or sheepishly grins at the pretty stranger across the bar, it's unlikely you'll have more than a cursory, fleeting interest ... unless the woman you're checking out is smarter than you.
That's one surprising finding in Helen Fisher's fifth annual study on American singles for Match.com, which surveyed 5,600 singletons across the country for what they desired in a potential partner.
Fisher's findings offer a solution to a classic problem in economic mating theory: Are men afraid of "over-educated" women?
Fisher offers a resounding "no" to that question, using an anecdote from pop culture as validation. In what she amusingly calls the Clooney Effect, Fisher describes the phenomenon of men wanting to marry women who were independent and self-reliant in relationships. "When even a lifelong bachelor like George Clooney settles down, you know things are changing," writes Fisher of her tongue-in-cheek term, which recalls the actor's marriage to Amal Alamuddin, an accomplished human-rights barrister.
That men might prefer women who are more educated than they are flies in the face of an argument put forward by the late economist Gary Becker. In a chapter he wrote for a volume on family economics, Becker hypothesized that men and women are more likely to be in relationships with their physical and intellectual peers, at least in theory.* He believed that it's economically advantageous for us to find our intellectual equal as opposed to a mismatched marriage: The benefits are a long, healthy, satisfying partnership; the cost is a partnership that falls apart, separation, maybe divorce.