This Just In: Men Dumbfounded by Chatting With Women
On Arrested Development, when George Michael Bluth finds himself around his cousin Maeby, he begins stammering and mumbling. He freezes up. And while George Michael's behavior elicits laughs, it might also cause some empathy. Researchers found that heterosexual men commonly experience cognitive deficits after interacting with women—and they think they understand why.
Researchers from Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands asked both men and women to complete a Stroop test, which is a series of tasks that assesses a person's ability to think. (Such tests commonly show participants the word green written in blue ink and measure the quickness and accuracy of a participant's reaction.) Then subjects participated in two trials based on daily interactions.
For the first, participants were told to read Dutch words to a camera; the recording would help someone practice lip reading. The participants learned the name of the observer but few other details. After the task, the subjects took another Stroop test. Women performed just as well on the Stroop test no matter if they believed a man or a woman was watching them. But the men were a different story; if they thought that a woman was watching them, they performed poorly. The mere thought of an interaction with women caused men to act, well, stupid.
Again, the researchers told the participants they would need to read aloud for a lip reading practice video. Half of them learned that men would observe them, the other half women. This time, the subjects did not perform the reading; they simply took a Stroop test. Men who believed women would watch them flubbed their tests again. Once again, the thought of interacting with a woman disrupted men's brainwaves. Women's scores remained steady.
The researchers hypothesized that men freeze up in interactions with women because they think of it as a possible dating opportunity. They also theorize that men might be awkward and dumb because of societal expectation; men feel they must impress women and this pressure causes brain freeze.