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February 18, 2005

Hormones and female mating strategies...

Research has suggested that women are attracted to masculine-looking men during the most fertile time of their menstrual cycle -- presumably in order to secure the most robust genes possible for their offspring -- whereas during the less fertile times, they tend to choose more feminine-looking men -- kinder, gentler and more co-operative long(er)-term partners who, it is supposed, are more likely to help provide for their offspring.

Conversely, at least one study has shown that that women who are on contraceptive pills preferred macho looking males (think Brad Pitt!) while those not on the pill were more interested in more sensitive types (although not necessarily this neurotic). The researchers suggested that because ovulation is blocked and women on the pill are less likely to become pregnant >>

[T]hey are sub-consciously attracted to sexy, macho men, rather than to men who are most likely to make a sensible long-term mate.

Lead researcher Tony Little said: 'Where a woman chooses her partner while she is on the pill, and then comes off it to have a child, she may find she is married to the wrong man.'

A current study finds that >>

[P]regnant women, women using oral contraceptives and women in the second half of their menstrual cycle demonstrated the strongest attraction to healthy-looking faces. These findings suggest that pregnancy (and other conditions with a similar hormonal profile) triggers strategies for avoiding illness during social interactions.

All of these hormone-driven behaviors can be viewed as part of a greater package of female mating strategies which include fertile women rating other women as uglier, a "strategy to devalue potential rivals," and fertile women rating their own attractiveness as higher than at other times >>

'Indeed, the fluctuations in women's perception of their own attractiveness may reflect real physical changes caused by estrogen, for example lip colouration and fullness,' [Ben Jones, a psychologist working at St Andrew's University] says. 'So the women may be objectively correct in seeing others as less attractive.'

Interestingly, fertile women are also better able to recognize expressions of fear (and, perhaps, other emotions) as compared to when their estrogen levels were lowest, possibly yet another way to select for the most appropriate mate.

Posted by theresa at 11:37 AM