Menstrual influences on person perception: Male sensitivity to fluctuating female fertility

Lucy Johnston, Lynden Miles, Clare Carter, Neil Macrae

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Successful reproduction may rely on rapid and accurate categorization of the sex of potential mates. In this regard, women have been shown to display enhanced sensitivity to reproductively-relevant stimuli (e.g., male faces) during phases of high conception risk. But what of male responses to potential female mates? Specifically, are men sensitive to cyclic fluctuations in female fertility? To investigate this issue, male participants completed a person-construal task in which they were required to categorize targets (men and women) by sex. The female targets comprised a group of normally ovulating women and a group of women taking the contraceptive pill. Photographs of each target were taken during phases of high-and low-fertility (or equivalent time points for woman on the pill). The results revealed that men were faster to categorize women at menstruation than at ovulation/mid-cycle. These findings are considered in terms of adaptive person perception and male selection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-290
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Cognition
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2005


  • to-hip ratio
  • facial attractiveness
  • concealed ovulation
  • sexual dimorphism
  • skin color
  • cycle
  • preference
  • selection
  • evolution
  • symmetry


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