If you've ever felt tongue-tied (or mildly brain-dead) in the presence of a woman, you're not alone. It turns out that interacting with women—or even thinking about interacting with women—makes a man dumber, say researchers from the Netherlands.
The Dutch team recruited 71 university students and asked each to complete a series of simple tasks that measured cognitive ability. During one of the tasks, the students—both male and female—were told they would be observed by someone of the opposite sex.
Although the male students had no idea what the female observer looked or sounded like, their cognitive performance dropped roughly 14 percent. The female students, on the other hand, actually performed slightly better when told they were being watched by a man.
Men's Health asked lead study author Sanne Nauts, M. Sc., why this happens. “We think that men are preparing for the upcoming interaction—thinking of what to say to the interaction partner, figuring out how they can make a good impression on her—and that this requires cognitive resources,” Nauts explains.
Basically, your attempts at “impression management”—trying to seem cool—take a toll on your intellectual muscles, Nauts says. This happens when you think a woman may potentially be a sexual partner, and past studies have shown that you become even dumber if the woman is extremely attractive.
So why don't women experience this same brain drain around attractive men? The researchers weren't sure, but speculate that nature's age-old mating rituals may be involved. Among almost all animal species, the men are the ones who perform while the woman stand back, judge, and then pick the most impressive suitor. That means the onus is on you to show her why you're the alpha dog.
There are a few ways you can combat this biological brain block. Eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains provides healthy glucose to fuel your mental muscles, Nauts says. Self-confidence is also your greatest asset when it comes to impressing the opposite sex, explains R. Don Steele, author of Body Language Secrets: A Guide during Courtship and Dating. Follow his 9 Tricks to Pick Up Any Woman, and she'll never notice your brain is running at less than full strength.