(Psychological) Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder: Effects of Psychological Distance and Relative Intelligence on Men's Attraction to Women

Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2015 Nov;41(11):1459-73. doi: 10.1177/0146167215599749. Epub 2015 Aug 24.


Interpersonal attraction may be shaped by (a) one's psychological distance from a target (the subjective experience that a target is close to or far from the self) and (b) the perceived standing of a target on a trait relative to the self (as better or worse than the self). We propose that when evaluating a psychologically distant target, individuals may rely on abstract schemas (e.g., the desirability of a partner's traits) and prefer targets who possess more (vs. less) desirable qualities than themselves. However, when evaluating psychologically near targets, concrete contextual details of the environment (e.g., how a target's behavior affects self-evaluations in the moment) may determine individuals' attraction toward targets. Six studies revealed that when evaluating psychologically distant targets, men showed greater attraction toward women who displayed more (vs. less) intelligence than themselves. In contrast, when targets were psychologically near, men showed less attraction toward women who outsmarted them.

Keywords: attraction; construal level; psychological distance; self-evaluation; social comparison.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Intelligence*
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Psychological Distance*
  • Social Desirability*
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult