A New Negative Externality

18 September 2009 at 5:16 am 5 comments

| Lasse B. Lien |

If you haven’t been brilliant lately, here is a possible explanation. It’s not at all your fault, it’s just that your colleagues are too good-looking. Note, though, that this excuse can apparently only be used by men.

Abstract: The present research tested the prediction that mixed-sex interactions may temporarily impair cognitive functioning. Two studies, in which participants interacted either with a same-sex or opposite-sex other, demonstrated that men’s (but not women’s) cognitive performance declined following a mixed-sex encounter. In line with our theoretical reasoning, this effect occurred more strongly to the extent that the opposite-sex other was perceived as more attractive (Study 1), and to the extent that participants reported higher levels of impression management motivation (Study 2). Implications for the general role of interpersonal processes in cognitive functioning, and some practical implications, are discussed.

Isn’t this a classic case of a negative externality? Surely there must be some kind of taxation or side payment scheme that can reduce this burden to society.

Source: Johan C. Karremans, Thijs Verwijmeren, Tila M. Pronk, and Meyke Reitsma, “Interacting with women can impair men’s cognitive functioning,” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 45(4), July 2009, 1041-44.

Entry filed under: - Lien -, Papers, Public Policy / Political Economy.

Famous Misquotes Bankrupt Bankruptcy

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Cliff Grammich  |  18 September 2009 at 5:52 am

    So, at work, men are more distracted by women than women are by men? Whowouldathunkit? Well, besides, I’m guessing, any female who’s ever been in the labor force . . .

  • 2. Cliff Grammich  |  18 September 2009 at 6:14 am

    Slightly more serious (or maybe just less flip) question: I wonder if there are similar effects among students? Many moons ago, I attended an all-male high school that went co-ed between my sophomore and junior years. I’ve heard (don’t have actual evidence) that today girls cluster near the top of class rankings, while a few boys are also near the top but most are toward the bottom.

  • 3. Julian H  |  18 September 2009 at 6:39 am

    Good post, and I completely agree with the concluding proposals.

    Perhaps the UN’s new agency for women (no doubt a body democratically requested by women throughout the globe) could come up with a solution to this problem and that of inequality in the workplace. Maybe all private companies (where they still exist) and bureaus should be split 50/50 into Women Only and Men Only organisations – thus correcting this market failure, and ensuring a fair distribution of workplace privilege. It would also stop women being pressured by society and capitalism into wearing make-up and high heels.

  • 4. Russ Coff  |  18 September 2009 at 12:49 pm

    So we can perhaps extrapolate from this and Lawrence Summer’s comments about the math skills of women. If women stay out of math, men may dominate the field. However, if (attractive) women enter math-oriented fields, they will come to dominate them as men become preoccupied with drooling on themselves…

  • 5. Lasse  |  21 September 2009 at 1:35 am

    At the other end of the spectrum, I think this also points to an efficiency explanation of why so few heterosexual men chose to be make up artists, stylists, fashion designers, etc. They would just be very unproductive and suffer an almost constant cognitive impairment.

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