A new psychological study has identified the scientific-sounding "George Clooney Effect," which leads us ladies to seek out older, more physically attractive partners as our financial independence increases. Surprised?
The researchers conducting the study certainly were, at least on the age issue. "We'd assumed that as women earn more, their partner preferences would actually become more like those of men, with a tendency towards preferring younger, more attractive partners rather than those who can provide and care for children," says Dr. Fhionna Moore of Scotland's University of Abertay Dundee. But after surveying 3,770 participants (1,851 women, 1,919 men) about their backgrounds, lives, and earnings, the researchers found the opposite was true.
Titled "The Effects of Control of Resources on Magnitudes of Sex Differences in Human Mate Preferences," and published by the journal Evolutionary Psychology, the study says that as women become more financially successful, they care less and less about "instinctive preferences" such as a partner's ability to provide security and material resources. Autonomy gives women greater flexibility to focus on less pressing matters, such as whether their partner has nice eyes. By focusing more on the looks stuff, financially independent women become more similar to men—except that men are said to be drawn to younger partners. "The popular stereotype of powerful women adopting male patterns of behaviour is strongly questioned by these new results," the study concludes.
Why would women want older partners as they move on up the ladder? The article doesn't spell it out, but one plausible reason is that older men are likely to exhibit the levels of success and self-assurance that these more confident women might seek. Also, there's the whole intimidation factor: though it's becoming less true over time (if personal experience is any indication), many men are still put off by women who are more financially successful than they are. A confident woman won't really have time to put up with some guy who can't deal with her self-sufficiency, so she'll seek out a man who, because of their own life experiences and successes, might be less likely to be intimidated. Of course, these theories only address the possibilities between hetero couples. The study didn't analyze how gay women's preferences might change as they increase their earning and bargaining power. Thesis project, anyone?
Image Tracy O/via Flickr.