Why Interacting with a Woman Can Leave Men ‘Cognitively Impaired’… this is the actual title of an article in Scientific American!  More from the article here:

Researchers have begun to explore the cognitive impairment that men experience before and after interacting with women. A 2009 study demonstrated that after a short interaction with an attractive woman, men experienced a decline in mental performance. A more recent study suggests that this cognitive impairment takes hold even when men simply anticipate interacting with a woman who they know very little about.

My first thought was that this was probably a simplistic reductionist article written by some uneducated blogger (such as myself).  But it turns out that article was written by Daisy Grewal who “received her PhD in social psychology from Yale University. She is a researcher at the Stanford School of Medicine, where she investigates how stereotypes affect the careers of women and minority scientists.”

Wow ok, let’s dig in a bit: 

[After taking a test of cognitive function], participants in Nauts’ study were asked … to read out loud a number of Dutch words while sitting in front of a webcam. The experimenters told them that during this “lip reading task” an observer would watch them over the webcam. The observer was given either a common male or female name.

Participants were led to believe that this person would see them over the web cam, but they would not be able to interact with the person. No pictures or other identifying information were provided about the observer—all the participants knew was his or her name. After the lip reading task, the participants took another [test of cognitive function]. Women’s performance on the second test did not differ, regardless of the gender of their observer.

However men who thought a woman was observing them ended up performing worse on the second test. This cognitive impairment occurred even though the men had not interacted with the female observer.

The scientists had a theory for what caused the cognitive impairment: “Although the studies on their own don’t offer any concrete explanations, Nauts and her colleagues think that the reason may have something to do with men being more strongly attuned to potential mating opportunities. Since all of their participants were both heterosexual and young, they might have been thinking about whether the woman might be a potential date.”

We’d love to hear from our readers on this.  Ladies, do you ever notice that men are cognitively impaired by the potential to mate with you?  Guys, do you ever get distracted by potential mating opportunities and become cognitively impaired?