WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Men’s egos may be bruised when their wife or girlfriend experience any kind of success, according to a recent study published by the American Psychological Association.

And it didn’t matter what the female partner did. From hostess to executive, men felt worse about themselves when the woman excelled than when she failed.

Scientists say the negative hit on self-esteem lays deep in the subconscious mind.

“It makes sense that a man might feel threatened if his girlfriend outperforms him in something they’re doing together, such as trying to lose weight,” explained study lead author, Kate Ratliff, PhD, of the University of Florida. “But this research found evidence that men automatically interpret a partner’s success as their own failure, even when they’re not in direct competition.”

The researchers conducted five experiments on nearly 900 people in the United States and the Netherlands.

In one case, 32 couples from the University of Virginia were asked to take what they were told was a problem solving and social intelligence test.

Each was told that their partner had scored in either the top 12 percent or the  bottom 12 percent in the same test.

When asked by researchers the men said their self-esteem was affected by their partner’s results.

Then the scientists conducted a further test, designed to explore their subconscious feelings.

The men who believed their partner scored higher demonstrated a significantly lower implicit self esteem than men who believed their partner scored near the bottom.

The participants were not given information about their own performance.

Other experiments suggested that men feel worse if their female partner succeeds at something they themselves failed at.

The study findings concluded that women’s self-esteem is not lowered when their male partners succeed.

The study appears in the APA’s  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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