Women's behavioural engagement with a masculine male heightens during the fertile window: evidence for the cycle shift hypothesis

Previous research suggests that women may alter their behaviour during the fertile window of the menstrual cycle to attract a mate who has traits that indicate high-quality genes. We tested whether fertile women demonstrate greater behavioural engagement with a masculine compared to a less masculine male. The test was performed using a quiz show paradigm, in which a male host asked female participants general knowledge questions. The masculinity of the host was varied between participants. Women's performance on the quiz, as well as their romantic attraction to the host, was examined in relation to women's estimated cycle phase and host masculinity. Fertile compared to nonfertile women were more romantically attracted to the host and were faster to answer his questions, but only when he was portrayed as masculine. The results of the study are interpreted as being in keeping with Gangestad and Thornhill's cycle shift hypothesis (Menstrual cycle variation in women's preferences for the scent of symmetrical men. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 1998; 265:727–733. doi:10.1098/rspb.1998.03801998)