Scientists from UCLA began their study by pinpointing the ovulation cycles of 41 undergraduate women involved in long-term heterosexual relationships. Women were asked survey questions about the attractiveness of their partner compared to other men, as well his stability and suitability as a long-term partner, including questions about his financial status.
At two different points in the subjects' monthly cycles -- at high fertility (just before ovulation) and at low fertility -- each woman was again asked details about her romantic relationship, such as how close she felt to her partner and how attracted to him she was.
While the researchers found no significant shift in how women perceived their level of commitment, trouble arose around ovulation for women who were mated to men they considered less sexually attractive. As the women neared ovulation, their attractiveness and closeness scores dropped one point on a seven-point scale. Women mated to men they perceived as sexy experienced the opposite effect, with their attractiveness and closeness scores rising by a point. The researchers then repeated the experiment with 67 other subjects, with similar findings.
"Women with the really good, stable guy felt more distant at high-fertility periods than low-fertility periods," said Martie Haselton, a professor of psychology and communication studies at UCLA and senior author of the study. "That isn't the case with women who were mated to particularly sexually attractive men. The closeness of their relationships got a boost just prior to ovulation."
"We don't know if men are picking up on this behavior, but if they are, it must be confusing for them," added lead author Christina Larson.
The findings are slated to be published in the November issue of the peer-reviewed journal Hormones and Behavior.
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