What’s Behind Your Attraction To Intelligence?

Updated September 6, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

So, you've realized you're attracted to intelligent people. You are not alone, and a few studies have been done to examine how much it happens and why it occurs, giving scientists and psychologists some ideas of the source. Here's a look at what may be behind your attraction to intelligence in a partner.

Evolution And Attraction To Intelligence

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In evolutionary science, scientists typically view attraction as an avenue toward preserving the human species through reproduction. Toward this end, attraction is seen as the first step towards creating a family and having children. Psychologists have identified three emotion systems for mating, having children, and childrearing, which start with having a sex drive. The next part is sexual attraction and the couple becoming emotionally attached.

Attraction to intelligence fits in with evolutionary theory because, in many cases, it contributes to carrying on the species. For example, more intelligent people tend to have more earning power, so they tend to have better financial means to provide for their children: They have more significant mental resources for solving all kinds of problems that could threaten their family's well-being: Their greater learning capacity also makes them more adaptable when new or rare difficulties arise. So, it makes sense in evolutionary terms that they seem pretty desirable as mates.

Psychological Distance And Attraction

How attracted you are to intelligent people may also have something to do with your psychological distance from them. Psychological distance can relate to how far you are from someone in time, spatial proximity, socially, and whether they are hypothetical or actual.

In one study, researchers examined how psychological distance affects attraction. As it turned out, men showed more significant attraction to more intelligent women than themselves, but only if they were psychologically distant from them. They weren't nearly as attracted to them when they were close to them in space, time, socially, or in reality.

Does Fertility Matter For Attraction?

If the evolutionary case for attraction to intelligence holds, it makes sense that women would be drawn to intelligence when they were most fertile. But could it depend on where you are in your ovulation cycle?

In another study of attraction, scientists found that when women were fertile, they experienced more significant interest in masculine men but not as much the rest of the month. However, they did not study whether women were more attracted to intelligence during this part of their ovulation cycle. The research focused on the effects of the ovulation cycle and didn't address the degree of attraction to intelligence, but future research might dig deeper into this question.

How Intelligent Is Intelligent?

Another thing to consider is how intelligent the people you're attracted to are. You may be drawn to someone slightly more brilliant than you but not be sexually attracted to a genius. If you are, you're probably in the minority. A recent study of attraction to intelligence, called sapiosexuality, found that some people are more attracted to others who are intelligent.

However, how intelligent they were made a big difference in the outcomes. The most sexually attractive people were those in the 90th percentile of IQ scores. Those with extremely high intelligence - above the 90th percentile - were shown to be less desirable than their somewhat less intelligent counterparts. People who fell much below the 90th percentile were considered less desirable.

Does It Matter How Intelligent You Are?

Another question to consider is: how intelligent is the person who feels the attraction to intelligence? And, how great is the divide between their intelligence and the intelligence of the person they're attracted to?

This question has yet to be thoroughly examined by researchers, but many psychologists and people who work with couples in other ways have noticed that it does matter. For example, in an article on compatibility by Neil Clark Warren, who created the eHarmony questionnaire for their matchmaking site, suggested that the couple needs to be relatively close in intelligence to be compatible - approximately 10 IQ points difference, he said, was ideal. It's important to remember that just because you're attracted to someone, it doesn't mean the two of you will be compatible in a relationship. Conversely, being compatible with someone doesn't mean you'll find them attractive.

The earlier study on sapiosexuality found that people from a wide range of IQ scores found intelligence attractive. So, even if you aren't brilliant, you will find intelligent people attractive if you're a sapiosexual.

Does The Level Of Involvement Make A Difference?


You may have an eye for intelligent people, but how does that attraction hold up when you get involved with them? Another study asked university students to rate the minimum intelligence they would find attractive in a mate in different involvement scenarios.

Four levels of involvement were examined: single date, sex, steady dating, and marriage. In this study, the researchers found that people had low expectations of a single date. They only looked for someone who was of average intelligence. However, they preferred someone more intelligent than about two-thirds of the population regarding marriage.

How Success Plays Into The Attraction To Intelligence

It's a natural assumption that a more intelligent person has more capacity to be successful. For example, a more intelligent person can more quickly master the coursework to get a college degree. Then, if they enter a profession like medicine or the law, they will likely command a much better than the average salary. If they get a business degree, they can work in the corporate world or build their own business. At least, the potential is there.

However, in this case, your attraction to intelligence may relate more to perception than reality. Indeed, the potential is there. On the other hand, an intelligent person may choose a lower-paying profession if that's where their interests lie. And they might also sabotage their success. In "Why Smart People Can Be So Stupid," Carol S. Dweck lays out several beliefs that keep intelligent people from realizing their full potential. According to Dweck, the following assumptions stem from a more profound belief that many smart people have - that intelligence is a fixed trait that can't be developed. Other core beliefs often holding back intelligent people include:

Doing well on one test indicates overall intelligence.

How well you perform is a measure of your intelligence and your self-worth.

Learning is risky, and doing something you already know is less of an investment.

Intelligent people can put in less effort.

Of course, not all intelligent people hold those beliefs. Many smart people are passionate about their work. They love learning and strive to continue as much as they can in their lifetime. They may know they're intelligent, but they don't let that stand in the way of working hard and increasing their knowledge. Smart people who think this way can often succeed in their chosen field.

Dealing With Your Attraction To Intelligence

Like any other type of attraction, attraction to intelligence can present some problems. Certain situations can arise if you gravitate toward intelligence in your dating preferences. For example, you might find yourself saying things like the following.

"I'm Attracted To Someone Who's Out Of My Reach"

Anyone can be attracted to another person who is unavailable for some reason. Maybe that person is happily married or has a different sexual orientation. You may feel you don't have a chance with someone more intelligent than you. Human attraction is complex, and talking to a therapist might help if you have this attraction pattern.

"I'm Attracted To Someone Whose Interests And Beliefs I Can't Understand."

Intelligent people often have esoteric interests that the average person can't relate to. So if the person you're attracted to is passionate about things you need help understanding, you may feel left out. You may even feel bad about yourself because you don't get it. But the truth is that many brilliant people find common ground with less intelligent people. Also, couples don't have to have all the same interests, and working on your self-esteem may help you feel better about the situation.

"I'm Attracted To Someone Who Can't Possibly Value Me"

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Again, self-esteem plays a prominent role. If you assume an intelligent person has no basis for valuing and respecting you, the problem lies in how you perceive your self-worth. Most truly intelligent people don't look down on people with lower IQs. Instead, they see the value in other qualities potential partners bring to the table.

Getting Help For Relationship Questions

Online couples therapy or individual sessions can help you address concerns about your attraction to intelligence. When you learn more about managing your expectations, self-esteem, and behaviors, you can better understand your unique situation. You can then find ways to channel your attraction to intelligence into making a beautiful life for yourself.

Talking to a therapist online has many advantages over traditional office visit sessions. You save on commute time and hassles with parking and traffic, and you can participate in sessions in the comfort of your home or anywhere you have an internet connection. Online therapy is effective, according to many studies.


There is nothing wrong with being attracted to intelligent people; biology can explain some of the phenomena. However, if you are concerned about who you are attracted to and why, talking online to a counselor can help you sort it out.

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