The Glass Slipper Effect

"Romantic fairy tales", write psychologists Laurie Rudman and Jessica Heppen, "differ in the details but they can be summed up as, 'Once upon a time, a young maiden in dire straits was rescued by a wealthy man of royal birth. After sufficient tests of the maiden’s love and patience, she was crowned the man’s princess and lived happily ever after.'"

In a series of experiments, they found evidence suggesting that implicitly internalizing romantic fantasies is correlated with lowered ambition in women (but not in men):

"Implicit (but not explicit) romantic fantasies negatively predicted women’s interest in personal power, including projected income, education goal, interest in high-status jobs, and group leadership appeal. By contrast, men’s implicit romantic fantasies were not routinely linked to their interest in personal power. In concert, the findings are consistent with positing a 'glass slipper' effect for women that may be an implicit barrier to gender equity."

As a metaphysician, this is interesting to me in that it points at one of the strands in how the stories we tell about romantic love are connected to the real-life phenomenon. There is metaphysically interesting work to be done in nailing down the nature of that connection. (Is it causal? Constitutive? Common-cause?) But studies like Rudman and Heppen's at least suggest that it's an inadequate defence of romantic gender stereotyping--in fairy tales, video games, or anywhere else--to say "It's just a fiction". Fictions matter IRL. There's no "just" about it.