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Partner Preferences of the Intellectually Gifted

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Partner Preferences of the Intellectually Gifted

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To date, hardly anything is known about the partner preferences of the intellectually gifted. The present study therefore examined the extent to which 354 gifted individuals judged 17 characteristics to be important in a (potential) partner and compared these ratings with those obtained from a community sample (n = 554). Among other things, it was expected that, among the gifted, a (potential) partner's high intelligence would be judged to be more important than among participants from the general community. It was also expected that single gifted individuals would judge a potential partner's high intelligence to be more important than gifted individuals involved in intimate relationships. Most of our predictions were supported, and results are discussed.
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Partner Preferences of the Intellectually
Gifted
Pieternel Dijkstra
a
, Dick P. H. Barelds
a
, Hinke A. K. Groothof
b
,
Sieuwke Ronner
c
& Arnolda P. Nauta
d
a
Department of Psychology , University of Groningen , Groningen ,
The Netherlands
b
Department of Psychology , Open University of the Netherlands ,
Heerlen , The Netherlands
c
Meríones Advies , Gouda , The Netherlands
d
Gifted and Talented Adults Foundation (IHBV), Ede , The
Netherlands
Published online: 08 Feb 2012.
To cite this article: Pieternel Dijkstra , Dick P. H. Barelds , Hinke A. K. Groothof , Sieuwke Ronner &
Arnolda P. Nauta (2012) Partner Preferences of the Intellectually Gifted, Marriage & Family Review,
48:1, 96-108, DOI: 10.1080/01494929.2011.628779
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01494929.2011.628779
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Partner Preferences of the
Intellectually Gifted
PIETERNEL DIJKSTRA and DICK P. H. BARELDS
Department of Psychology, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
HINKE A. K. GROOTHOF
Department of Psychology, Open University of the Netherlands, Heerlen, The Netherlands
SIEUWKE RONNER
Merı
´
ones Advies, Gouda, The Netherlands
ARNOLDA P. NAUTA
Gifted and Talented Adults Foundation (IHBV), Ede, The Netherlands
To date, hardly anything is known about the partner preferences of
the intellectually gifted. The present study therefore examined the
extent to which 354 gifted individuals judged 17 characteristics
to be important in a (potential) partner and compared these rat-
ings with those obtained from a community sample (n ¼ 554).
Among other things, it was expected that, among the gifted, a
(potential) partner’s high intelligence would be judged to be more
important than among participants from the general community.
It was also expected that single gifted individuals would judge a
potential partner’s high intelligence to be more important than
gifted individuals involved in intimate relationships. Most of our
predictions were supported, and results are discussed.
KEYWORDS gender, giftedness, partner preferences, relationship
status
In general, high intelligence is a desired asset. Individuals with a high IQ are
more creative, earn more money, are healthier, and live longer lives (e.g.,
Batty, Shipley, Gale, Mortensen, & Deary, 2008). An individual with an IQ
of 130 and above is usually considered to be ‘‘gifted’’ (e.g., Hollinger &
Address correspondence to Pieternel Dijkstra, Grote Kruisstraat 2=I, 9712 TS Groningen,
The Netherlands. E-mail: p.dijkstra@nti.nl or pieterneldijkstra@ziggo.nl
Marriage & Family Review, 48:96–108, 2012
Copyright # Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 0149-4929 print=1540-9635 online
DOI: 10.1080/01494929.2011.628779
96
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Kosek, 1986; Lubinski, Benbow, Webb, & Bleske-Rechek, 2006). Terman
(Terman & Oden, 1959), one of the first to study the gifted, showed that indi-
viduals who were identified at age 10 as intellectually gifted evolved by mid-
life into relatively well-adjusted, productive adults (see also Freeman, 2006).
More recent research on gifted individuals has restricted itself mainly to the
study of gifted children and adolescents. A possible explanation for the
scarce studies among gifted adults is that gifted people only form a small part
of the general population (about 2%) that is not easy to detect. Gifted adults
are not simply those individuals who excel in school or career: Due to,
among other things, boredom, many gifted individuals are underachievers
rather than overachievers (e.g., Ford, Grantham, & Milner, 2004). As a result,
the only reliable way to trace and select gifted adults is to measure individual
IQ scores on a standardized intelligence test, an investment many researchers
may not be willing to take.
Partner Preferences of the Intellectually Gifted: The Importance
of Intelligence
Not surprisingly therefore, to date no studies have yet examined issues con-
cerning the romantic relationships of the gifted, such as their partner prefer-
ences. This, however, is relevant because there are strong indications that
gifted individuals differ from others in their preferences for a partner. Accord-
ing to the ‘‘similarity-attraction hypothesis,’’ the more similar two individuals
are, the higher the attraction between them (e.g., Byrne, 1971; Byrne &
Nelson, 1965). It is usually reassuring and comforting to meet others who
are like us. Similar others do not only validate our beliefs about the world
and ourselves but also facilitate harmonious interactions, reducing the risk
of conflicts and disagreements (e.g., Morry, 2005; Rusbult, Kumashiro,
Kubacka, & Finkel, 2009). Studies have indeed found overwhelming support
for the similarity-attraction hypothesis: People often have mates who are
similar to themselves in, for instance, physical attractiveness, attachment
style, political and religious attitudes, socioeconomic back ground, level of
education (e.g., Klohnen & Luo, 2003; Luo & Klohnen, 2005), and personality
characteristics such as extraversion, agreeableness, and openness to experi-
ence (e.g., Dijkstra & Barelds, 2008; McCrae et al., 2008). Homogamy has also
been found for intelligence: Individuals prefer, and usually select, partners
with a similar IQ. Previous studies have, for instance, found spousal correla-
tions of between .37 (Bouchard & McGue, 1981) and .41 (Jensen, 1978) for
standardized IQ measures (see also Rushton & Nicholson, 1988).
In addition, several studies have shown partner similarity to promote
couple well-being and to be positively related to relationship success (e.g.,
Karney & Bradbury, 1995; Luo & Klohnen, 2005; Rusbult et al., 2009). Lay
theory research shows that this knowledge is not restricted to scientists but
is shared by the general public: In general, people perceive shared interests,
Partner Preferences of the Intellectually Gifted 97
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lifestyle, values, and traits to be important qualities for a spouse and a suc-
cessful marriage (e.g., Gigy & Kelly, 1992; Morry, 2005). Likewise, dissimila-
rities in, for instance, age, values, interests, and personality are usually
mentioned as the main reason for relationship breakup (e.g., Amato &
Previti, 2003). For instance, in The Netherlands, where the present study
was conducted, almost 40% of the divorcees report mismatches in personal-
ities as the major cause of their break-up (De Graaf, 2006). Based on the
similarity-attraction hypothesis we therefore expected the intellectually
gifted, compared with other people, to more strongly value a potential part-
ner’s high intelligence (Hypothesis 1). We expected this to be true in absol-
ute terms but also in relative ones. That is, we expected that, among the
gifted, a high intelligence would rank higher as a desirable partner character-
istic than among other people (Hypothesis 2).
Differences in partner preferences between gifted and nongifted people
are also likely to occur with regard to partner characteristics other than intel-
ligence. In general, gifted people value their intellectual capacities more than
their social ones (Burdick, Kreicker, & Klopfer, 1981; Southern & Plant,
1968); have been found to be less extraverted, agreeable, and emotionally
intelligent (Dijkstra, Barelds, Ronner & Nauta, in press); and often feel
‘‘different,’’ experiencing problems relating to other people (Freeman,
2008; Landau & Weissler, 1993). In summary, the scarce studies on this topic
suggest that gifted people have a somewhat more inward oriented person-
ality than others (Dijkstra et al., under review). As a result, based on the
similarity hypothesis, one might expect gifted people to attach less value
to a (potential) partner’s social competence. We therefore expected the gifted
to find characteristics reflecting social competence, such as ‘‘easygoing’’ and
‘‘kind,’’ to be less important than other people (Hypothesis 3). Again, we
expected this to be true in both absolute and relative terms. We therefore
also expected, among the gifted, partner characteristics reflecting social
competence to rank lower as desirable partner characteristics than among
other people (Hypothesis 4).
In addition to the motive of similarity, partner preferences may also be
affected by other drives, such as the search for a mate who contributes to sur-
vival and fitness (e.g., Buss, 1994). In general, women place higher value
than men on a potential partner’s social status and future financial prospects,
of which intelligence is an important predictor (Buss, 1994; De Raad &
Doddema-Winsemius, 1992). Therefore, we expected women to attach more
value to a (potential) partner’s intelligence than men (Hypothesis 5).
However, for intellectually gifted people it may not be easy to find
someone who is as (at least as) intellectually gifted as themselves. Only 2%
of the population can be considered intellectually gifted (Lubinski, Benbow,
Webb, & Bleske-Rechek, 2006). As a consequence, gifted individuals have to
select a partner from a relatively small pool of eligible candidates. Because,
as noted, women can be expected to place higher value than men on a
98 P. Dijkstra et al.
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(potential) partner’s intelligence, especially gifted women may have to
settle for a less intelligent partner. This may result in cognitive dissonance
(Festinger, 1957), that is, a negative affective state that results from the dis-
crepancy between cognition and behavior (here, the importance placed on
high intelligence and the reality of having a mate who is not as intelligent
as hoped for). According to dissonance theory, individuals are motivated
to reduce this negative affective state by, for instance, changing their attitudes
or decreasing the importance of one of the dissonant elements. As a result, it
can be expected that gifted individuals committed in an intimate relationship
will place less importance on a partner’s high intelligence than single gifted
individuals (Hypothesis 6). For the reasons mentioned above, we expected
this difference to be larger among gifted women than among gifted men
(Hypothesis 7).
The Present Study
The present study examined the issues described above by studying the part-
ner preferences of both single gifted individuals and gifted individuals in a
committed relationship, comparing the preferences of individuals from a
general community sample.
Recapitulating, we tested the following hypotheses:
1. Gifted individuals place more value on a (potential) partner’s high intelli-
gence than other people.
2. Among the gifted, a high intelligence is ranked higher as a desirable part-
ner characteristic than among other people.
3. The gifted find partner characteristics related to social competence, such
as ‘‘easygoing’’ and ‘‘kind,’’ less important than others.
4. Among the gifted, partner characteristics reflecting social competence are
ranked lower as desirable partner characteristics than among other
people.
5. Women attach more value to a (potential) partner’s high intelligence than
men.
6. Single gifted individuals place more value on a (potential) partner’s high
intelligence than gifted individuals who are committed in an intimate
relationship.
7. The difference in hypothesis 6 is larger among women than among men.
As noted before, intellectually gifted adults are not easy to locate: To
reliably select gifted adults, one needs to measure potential participants’
IQ scores on a standardized intelligence test. As early as 1968, Fogel, how-
ever, invited researchers in need of participants with a high IQ to consider
studying the members of the society of Mensa, a ready-made population of
highly intelligent individuals, representing all levels and fields of endeavor.
Partner Preferences of the Intellectually Gifted 99
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To become member of Mensa individuals need to score higher than 98% of
the general population on a standardized intelligence test. Today, Mensa has
some 100,000 members in 100 countries throughout the world. To date, scho-
lars involved in 24 studies took up Fogel’s invitation (e.g., Bessou, Tyrrell, &
Yziquel, 2004). The present study also did, recruiting members of the Dutch
branch of the Mensa society.
METHODS
Participants and Procedure
The present study was part of a larger study on relationships among the gifted.
Gifted participants were recruited through newsletters of Mensa and Mind in
Development (both organizations for the gifted) and, to participate in the
present study, asked to visit the website of Mensa where a link was posted
to the present, online study. A total of 354 heterosexual Mensa members com-
pleted all online questionnaires used in the present study: 171 men (48%) and
183 women (52%). At the time of the present study, 241 of them were involved
in a committed relationship. A control group was recruited by a professional
data collecting agency hired by the Open University of the Netherlands. The
control group, from the general community, consisted of 558 heterosexual
participants in total, 277 men (49%) and 281 women (51%); 444 of these part-
icipants were involved in a committed relationship at the time of the present
study. Mean age was 40.18 (standard deviation ¼ 10.44; range, 17–71) in the
gifted sample and 43.57 (standard deviation ¼ 12.52; range 18–72) in the con-
trol group (age was restricted to a minimum of 18 and a maximum of 72 years).
In the control group 43% of participants had received a low level of education,
34% a medium level of education, and 23% a high level of education (i.e.,
bachelor degree of higher). In the gifted group 1% of participants had
received a low level of education, 26% a medium level of education, and
73% a high level of education.
Partner Preferences
Participants were asked to rate the importance of 17 characteristics in a
(potential) partner. These characteristics were assessed on five-point scales,
ranging from ‘‘not important’’ (1) to ‘‘extremely important’’ (5). Fifteen char-
acteristics were derived from the work of Buss and Barnes (1986, p. 568; see
also De Raad & Doddema-Winsemius, 1992): kind, understanding, exciting
personality, intelligent, physically attractive, physically healthy, mentally
healthy, easygoing, creative, highly educated, wants children, good earning
capacity, good heredity, good housekeeper, and religious. The Buss and
Barnes (1986) characteristic healthy was split into two: physically healthy
and mentally healthy. In addition, kind and understanding were used as
100 P. Dijkstra et al.
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separate characteristics (combined in Buss & Barnes, 1986). The character-
istic highly educated was adapted from the original characteristic college
graduate (which is too specific in the present research context). In addition,
the characteristic that was originally framed as likes children was changed
into wants children. Finally, because of our assumption that people seek
similar mates, we added the characteristics is similar to you and is your
opposite. In our view, in particular the characteristics kind, understanding,
and easygoing reflect a partner’s social competence.
RESULTS
A multivariate analyses of variance was conducted using the 17 partner char-
acteristics as the dependent variables, and gender (male vs. female), gifted-
ness (Mensa vs. control group), and relationship status (involved in an
intimate relationship vs. single) as the independent variables. This analyses
revealed three significant multivariate main effects of, respectively, gender
[F(17, 888) ¼ 6.39], giftedness [F(17, 888) ¼ 14.39], and relationship status
[F(17, 888) ¼ 2.63; all p < .05]. Univariate analyses showed that gifted and
nongifted individuals attached different values to a (potential) partner’s kind-
ness, high intelligence, physical health, desire for children, amiability, level
of education, good earning capacity, good heredity, good housekeeping
qualities, religiousness, similarity, and dissimilarity [all F(1, 904) range from
4.29 for oppositeness to 66.90 for intelligence; all p < .05].
In support of Hypothesis 1, it was found that the gifted thought it was
more important to find or have a partner of high intelligence than parti-
cipants from the control group [F(1, 904) ¼ 66.90, p < .001]. In support of
Hypothesis 3, the gifted were also found to judge kind [F(1, 904) ¼ 5.11,
p < .05] and easygoing [F(1, 904) ¼ 47.33, p < .001] as less important than indi-
viduals from the control group. However, the characteristic understanding,
which may also be seen as a characteristic related to social competence,
was not rated differently by the gifted and the control group [F(1,
904) ¼ 1.85, p ¼ns]. In addition, whereas the gifted more highly valued the
characteristics highly educated [F(1, 904) ¼ 12.43, p < .001] and is similar to
you [F(1, 904) ¼ 6.50, p < .05], participants from the control group more
highly valued physically healthy [F(1, 904) ¼ 12.32, p < .001], wants children
[F(1, 904) ¼ 28.33, p < .001], good earning capacity [F(1, 904) ¼ 33.70,
p < .001], good heredity [F(1, 904) ¼ 30.92, p < .001], good housekeeper [F(1,
904) ¼ 20.25, p < .001], religious [F(1, 904) ¼ 7.77, p < .01], and is opposite to
you [F(1, 904) ¼ 4.29, p < .05]. Univariate analyses also showed that men
and women differed in the characteristics understanding, intelligent, physi-
cally attractive, physically healthy, mentally healthy, creative, wants chil-
dren, and good earning capacity (all F > 5.37, all p < .05). Mean scores by
gender, giftedness, and relationship status are listed in Table 1.
Partner Preferences of the Intellectually Gifted 101
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TABLE 1 Mean Importance Ratings of Partner Characteristic as a Function of Giftedness, Gender, and Relationship Status
Gifted Control group
Men Women Men Women
Single Involved Single Involved Single Involved Single Involved
Kind 4.35 (0.52) 4.35 (0.68) 4.28 (0.79) 4.47 (0.69) 4.47 (0.59) 4.41 (0.68) 4.47 (0.61) 4.58 (0.64)
Understanding 4.27 (0.70) 4.24 (0.69) 4.48 (0.76) 4.56 (0.56) 4.31 (0.60) 4.43 (0.58) 4.46 (0.63) 4.61 (0.63)
Exciting personality 3.06 (1.27) 3.31 (1.02) 3.48 (1.02) 3.51 (1.16) 3.60 (0.78) 3.57 (0.97) 3.37 (0.89) 3.39 (1.02)
Intelligent 4.29 (0.76) 4.02 (0.97) 4.52 (0.56) 4.34 (0.68) 3.64 (0.96) 3.76 (0.82) 3.80 (0.78) 3.82 (0.92)
Physically Attractive 3.67 (0.94) 3.77 (0.84) 3.44 (0.85) 3.45 (1.01) 3.89 (0.71) 3.56 (0.86) 3.65 (0.74) 3.60 (0.92)
Physically healthy 3.57 (0.76) 3.51 (0.96) 3.42 (0.94) 3.16 (0.97) 3.71 (0.76) 3.78 (0.95) 3.52 (0.88) 3.70 (1.03)
Mentally healthy 4.12 (0.83) 4.25 (0.76) 4.53 (0.64) 4.26 (0.68) 4.24 (0.77) 4.12 (0.85) 4.26 (0.74) 4.25 (0.78)
Easygoing 3.55 (0.91) 3.57 (0.90) 3.65 (0.80) 3.30 (0.99) 3.84 (0.71) 3.94 (0.72) 4.04 (0.65) 4.01 (0.80)
Creative 3.39 (0.98) 3.20 (1.05) 3.37 (0.95) 3.12 (1.09) 3.31 (0.97) 3.47 (0.88) 2.93 (1.03) 3.22 (1.06)
Wants children 1.95 (1.17) 2.31 (1.27) 2.06 (1.30) 2.93 (1.56) 2.53 (1.49) 2.92 (1.41) 2.81 (1.61) 3.40 (1.51)
Highly educated 3.00 (1.00) 2.93 (1.22) 3.09 (1.20) 3.11 (1.21) 2.53 (1.24) 2.69 (1.10) 2.91 (1.18) 2.71 (1.15)
Good earning capacity 1.96 (0.87) 1.98 (0.98) 2.31 (0.96) 2.01 (1.00) 2.29 (0.94) 2.41 (0.98) 2.74 (0.93) 2.64 (1.04)
Good heredity 2.57 (1.29) 2.26 (1.13) 1.98 (1.03) 2.24 (1.16) 2.49 (1.16) 2.68 (1.12) 2.77 (1.02) 2.87 (1.11)
Good housekeeper 2.04 (0.98) 2.13 (1.07) 2.20 (1.03) 2.26 (1.04) 2.27 (1.10) 2.59 (1.13) 2.55 (1.21) 2.50 (1.07)
Religious 1.39 (0.81) 1.66 (1.20) 1.55 (1.07) 1.55 (1.13) 1.76 (1.13) 1.81 (1.07) 1.80 (1.18) 1.74 (1.13)
Is similar to you 2.39 (1.24) 1.98 (1.12) 2.46 (1.13) 2.18 (1.06) 1.98 (1.10) 1.99 (0.97) 2.07 (1.03) 2.14 (1.03)
Is opposite to you 2.33 (1.09) 2.18 (1.16) 2.28 (1.03) 2.21 (1.02) 2.47 (1.08) 2.44 (1.03) 2.42 (1.13) 2.36 (1.05)
Values in parentheses are standard deviations.
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In support of Hypothesis 5, women were found to value an intelligent
partner more than men [F(1, 904) ¼ 8.57, p < .01; see also Table 1]. In
addition, women, compared with men, thought it was more important for
a partner to be understanding [F(1, 904) ¼ 19.79, p < .001], mentally healthy
[F(1, 904) ¼ 5.55, p < .05], to want children [F(1, 904) ¼ 10.87, p < .001], and
to have good earning capacity [F(1, 904) ¼ 12.25, p < .001], whereas men,
compared with women, thought it was more important that a partner was
physically attractive [F(1, 904) ¼ 7.35, p < .01], physically healthy [F(1,
904) ¼ 6.60, p < .01], and creative [F(1, 904) ¼ 5.38, p < .05]. In addition, uni-
variate analyses showed that single individuals differed from individuals
involved in intimate relationships in the degree to which they attached value
to the characteristics wants children [F(1, 904) ¼ 23.77, p < .001] and is simi-
lar to you [F(1, 904) ¼ 5.17, p < .05]: individuals in relationships attached
more value to a partner’s desire to have children and less to a partner’s
degree of similarity (also see Table 1).
In addition, three significant multivariate two-way interaction effects
emerged of, respectively, gender by giftedness [F(17, 888) ¼ 2.37, p < .01],
gender by relationship status [F(17, 888) ¼ 1.69, p < .05], and giftedness by
relationship status [F(17, 888) ¼ 2.33, p < .01]. Univariate effects for giftedness
by gender revealed that especially gifted men attached relatively low value to
a (potential) partner’s exciting personality [F(1, 904) ¼ 10.29, p < .001]. In
addition, whereas gifted women attached relatively low value to a (potential)
partner’s good heredity, women from the control group attached relatively
high value to this characteristic [F(1, 904) ¼ 9.29, p < .001; also see Table 1].
The univariate interaction effect between gender and giftedness on the
characteristic intelligent did not reach significance [F(1, 904) ¼ 1.76, p ¼ ns].
Although the multivariate effect of gender by relationship status was signifi-
cant, univariate analyses revealed no significant effects. Univariately signifi-
cant effects of the giftedness by relationship status interaction were found
for a partner’s high intelligence [F(1, 904) ¼ 4.78, p < .05] and creativity
[F(1, 904) ¼ 8.15, p < .01].
In support of Hypothesis 6, gifted, single individuals thought it was more
important to find an intelligent partner than gifted individuals involved in a
relationship (who still attached more value to high intelligence than people
from the community sample). In addition, gifted, single people attached more
value to a partner’s creativity than gifted people with a relationship, whereas
the opposite was found among individuals from the community sample (see
Table 1). The three way interaction between gender, giftedness, and relation-
ship status did not reach significance [F(17, 888) ¼ 1.04, p ¼ ns], indicating that
gifted men and women did not differ in the extent to which relationship status
mattered to the importance they attached to a partner’s high intelligence.
Hypothesis 7 could therefore be rejected.
To test Hypothesis 2, we compared the mean rank scores for the 18 part-
ner characteristics within the two samples (gifted and control) using
Partner Preferences of the Intellectually Gifted 103
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Kendall’s W-test. Results showed that, among the gifted, kind and under-
standing (mean ranks did not differ significantly; W ¼ 0.00, p ¼ ns) ranked
highest, followed by intelligent and mentally healthy (the latter two mean
ranks did not differ significantly; W ¼ 0.00, p ¼ ns). Easygoing was next in
the rank ordering, closely followed by physically attractive, physically
healthy, and exciting personality (all W < 0.03, p ¼ ns). Similar analyses in
the control group revealed kind and understanding to be rank ordered high-
est (ratings did not differ significantly; W ¼ 0.00, p ¼ ns), followed by men-
tally healthy and easygoing. Next, intelligent and physically healthy
emerged as most important partner characteristics (ratings for the latter
two did not differ significantly; W ¼ 0.00, p ¼ ns). Thus, in support of Hypoth-
esis 2, among the gifted intelligence ranked higher (behind kind and under-
standing) than in the control group (behind kind, understanding, mentally
healthy, and easygoing). Hypothesis 4 could be refuted: The three partner
characteristics reflecting social competence, that is, kind, understanding,
and easygoing, did not rank order lower among the gifted than the non-
gifted. Thus, although the gifted judged characteristics reflecting social com-
petence to be less important in a (potential) partner than others (see
confirmation Hypothesis 3), they did not, more than others, find these char-
acteristics to be less important than other partner characteristics.
DISCUSSION
Our study was the first to systematically examine the partner preferences of
the intellectually gifted. In line with our hypotheses, the present study
showed that gifted individuals attached more value to a (potential) partner’s
high intelligence than others, both in absolute and relative terms, providing
evidence for the assumption that, at least to some extent, individuals search
for similarity in a partner. Also, our finding that two of the three partner char-
acteristics reflecting social competence, that is, kind and easygoing, are less
important to the gifted than to the nongifted and seems to support the
similarity-attraction hypothesis. Thus, also among the gifted, people seem
to look for a similar mate. Our finding that women, more than men, valued
a (potential) partner’s intelligence showed that similarity was not the only
thing that mattered. Consistent with an evolutionary psychological line of
reasoning, women attach more value to a (potential) partner’s intelligence
because intelligence is an important marker for (future) societal status. The
fact that women also attached more value than men to a (potential) partner’s
earning capacity seems to further support this line of reasoning.
In addition, we found the gifted to attach more value to a potential part-
ner’s level of education, which makes perfect sense, and similarity to the self.
Of course, we cannot be sure what exactly, in a potential partner, should be
more similar in the eyes of the gifted. It is, however, not unlikely that the
104 P. Dijkstra et al.
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gifted refer to similarity with regard to their intellect and giftedness. Previous
research has shown that gifted individuals highly value their intellectual
capacities (e.g., Burdick et al., 1981) and, due to their giftedness, often feel
‘‘different’’ from others (Freeman, 2008). More than others, they may there-
fore feel the need for a similar partner, someone who understands what it
is like to be gifted.
It was also interesting that relationship status played a role in indivi-
duals’ partner preferences. Especially single gifted individuals placed a high
value on a (potential) partner’s intelligence. As argued in the introduction
section, single, gifted individuals may still have the goal (or hope) to find
an attractive partner who is as intelligent as they are. In reality, this may
be a difficult undertaking, because only a small portion of the population
is intellectually gifted. Individuals may become involved in relationships with
partners who are not as intelligent as they had initially hoped and, to reduce
cognitive dissonance, downgrade the importance of intelligence as a result.
An alternative explanation is that when involved in an intimate relationship,
gifted individuals discover that a partner’s intellectual giftedness is not as
important for a satisfactory relationship as they thought in advance. They
may discover that, for instance, kindness, empathy, and emotional stability
are much more important than intellectual giftedness in relationship func-
tioning. If this explanation is true, gifted singles may delude themselves with
the idea that a potential partner should be as intelligent as they are them-
selves, making it harder for themselves to find a suitable partner.
Our expectation that, among the gifted, especially women in committed
relationships would have ‘‘lowered’’ their importance ratings of a partner’s
high intelligence did not prove to be valid. Several explanations may account
for this finding. It is possible that once they are involved in a committed
relationship, gifted women also cope with cognitive dissonance in other
ways than to downgrade the importance of a partner’s high intelligence,
for instance, by positively biasing a less intelligent partner’s intelligence. It
is also possible that gifted women are more selective in their partner choice
than gifted men. That is, gifted men may more easily fall in love and=or
accept a partner who is less intelligent than they are, whereas gifted women
may be more willing to wait until they meet a partner with a minimum level
of intelligence. As a result, gifted women involved in committed relationships
may not experience more cognitive dissonance than gifted men and, as a
consequence, not downgrade the importance of a partner’s intelligence more
than men.
Strengths, Limitations, and Future Research
The present study is the first to examine the partner preferences of gifted
individuals. In so doing, it contributes to our knowledge on giftedness and
the potential problems gifted individuals may run into in the process of mate
Partner Preferences of the Intellectually Gifted 105
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selection. Of course, our study also suffered from several limitations. First, it
is possible that members of Mensa are not entirely representative of the
population of gifted adults. A strength, however, was that, nonetheless,
our sample was quite heterogeneous in terms of age and educational level.
Nonetheless, future studies need to cross-validate our findings, ideally in a
population of gifted adults that are not necessarily member of Mensa. In
addition, future research may follow-up the present study’s findings and,
for instance, examine the extent to which the different partner preferences
of the gifted are differently related to the success of finding a suitable mate
(when they are single) or relationship quality (when they have a mate). In
sum, we hope our study inspires future studies to further explore the intimate
relationships of the gifted, a group of people that, in our opinion, deserves
much more attention from researchers than it has received to date.
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... Considering the importance of intimate relationships to both mental and physical well-being, it is no surprise that many scholars have studied intimate relationships and the variables and processes that are associated with the quality of these relationships. In these studies, however, very little attention has so far been paid to gifted adults (for a review see Rinn & Bishop, 2015), in other words, individuals with an IQ over 130 (see, for instance, Dijkstra, Barelds, Groothof, Ronner, & Nauta 2012;Hollinger & Kosek, 1986). ...
... According to Dijkstra et al. (2012) studies on the intimate relationships of gifted individuals are scarce because the most reliable way to trace and select gifted adults is to measure individuals' IQ scores by means of a standardized intelligence test. This would usually mean a great investment from researchers. ...
... As a consequence, they may experience their intimate relationships differently. Dijkstra et al. (2012), for instance, found that, compared to other single men, gifted single men attached more value to a potential partner's educational level and intelligence, and less to a potential partner's wish to have children and exciting personality. In addition, the gifted have been found to report lower levels of intimacy in their friendships, presumably because of their stronger instrumental orientation (Mayseless, 1993). ...
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