It’s an oft-repeated scene in a Hollywood romantic comedy: Gorgeous girl makes man totally tongue-tied. Now there’s science behind the phenomenon—not just screenwriting.
According to researchers at the Radboud University in The Netherlands, men who spend even a few minutes with a pretty girl perform less well in brain function tests than those gabbing with a woman they don’t find attractive.
Why? The theory, published in the Journal of Experimental and Social Psychology, is that men use up so much of their brain power trying to impress the stunner that they literally have nothing left for other tasks.
The inspiration for the study: Personal experience. One of the researchers was so intent on impressing a pretty woman he’d never met before that he couldn’t remember his own address when she asked him where he lived.
The scientific explanation for that: He was so focused on making an impression he “temporarily absorbed most of his cognitive resources,” researchers wrote in the Journal of Experimental and Social Psychology.
Researchers rounded up forty male heterosexual volunteers to see if they had the same problem. Each took a memory test where they watched a stream of letters and had to say—as quickly as possible—if each were the same as the one before it.
The volunteers then spent seven minutes chatting to male or female members of the research team and then repeated the memory test. The findings: The men were slower and made more mistakes after trying to impress women. The more attractive they found the woman they chatted to, the worse they did on the test afterward. (For the record, they repeated the test with female volunteers, but the women were not at all affected by time in the company of gorgeous men.)