GangestadThornhill.1998.Tshirt(2) - Menstrual cycle...

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Menstrual cycle variation in women’s preferences for the scent of symmetrical men Steven W. Gangestad 1 and Randy Thornhill 2 1 Department of Psychology and 2 Department of Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA ( [email protected] , [email protected] ) Evidence suggests that female sexual preferences change across the menstrual cycle. Women’s extra-pair copulations tend to occur in their most fertile period, whereas their intra-pair copulations tend to be more evenly spread out across the cycle. This pattern is consistent with women preferentially seeking men who evidence phenotypic markers of genetic bene¢ts just before and during ovulation.This study examined whether women’s olfactory preferences for men’s scent would tend to favour the scent of more symmetrical men, most notably during the women’s fertile period. College women sni¡ed and rated the attractiveness of the scent of 41 T-shirts worn over a period of two nights by di¡erent men. Results indicated that normally cycling (non-pill using) women near the peak fertility of their cycle tended to prefer the scent of shirts worn by symmetrical men. Normally ovulating women at low fertility within their cycle, and women using a contraceptive pill, showed no signi¢cant preference for either symmetrical or asymmetrical men’s scent. A separate analysis revealed that, within the set of normally cycling women, individual women’s preference for symmetry correlated with their probability of conception, given the actuarial value associated with the day of the cycle they reported at the time they smelled the shirts. Potential sexual selection processes and proximate mechanisms accounting for these ¢ndings are discussed. Keywords: developmental instability; £uctuating asymmetry; mate choice; menstrual cycle; olfaction; sexual selection 1. INTRODUCTION A variety of evidence suggests that human female sexual desires change across the menstrual cycle. Peaks in sexual desire appear to occur most commonly during the mid- follicular or ovulatory phase (for reviews, see Hill 1988; Regan 1996). Increases in sexual interest prior to and during ovulation may be speci¢c to particular relationships whereas the rate of British women’s intra-pair copulations (IPCs) tended to remain fairly constant across the menstrual cycle (or even slightly increased during the non- fertile luteal phase), their rate of extra-pair copulations (EPCs) peaked during the last days of the follicular phase, atime at which fertility is maximal, with EPCs occurringat a peak rate about 2.5 times their rate of occurrence during the last week of the cycle (when fertility is low). These results are consistent with changes across the
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This note was uploaded on 11/24/2009 for the course ANTHRO 124P taught by Professor Fessler during the Fall '07 term at UCLA.

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GangestadThornhill.1998.Tshirt(2) - Menstrual cycle...

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