love, attraction, mating, fertility

Women’s Taste in Men Doesn’t Change Over Menstrual Cycle Interview with:
Dr. Julia Stern (Jünger)
Georg-August-University Göttingen
Georg-Elias-Müller-Institute of Psychology
Biological Personality Psychology
Göttingen What is the background for this study?

Response: The main background for this study was the Good Genes Ovulatory Shift Hypothesis. This Hypothesis is quite famous in evolutionary social sciences. It claims that women’s mate preferences should shift across their ovulatory cycle, regulated by changing hormone levels (mainly estradiol and progesterone).

More precisely, when fertile, women should be sexually attracted to men who displayed assumed indicators of genetic quality, e.g. dominant behavior, whereas when not fertile, women should prefer to mate with potential long-term partners. This Hypothesis has received criticism in the recent years, because of studies not finding any evidence for it, studies with positive evidence were criticized for methodological problems, and studies claiming that previously presumed indicators of good genes do not really display good genes at all. All this criticism led to a debate about the existence of mate preference shifts across women’s ovulatory cycle. My colleagues and I wanted to contribute to this debate by conducting a large study with strong research methods.

love, attraction, mating, What are the main findings?

Response: Our main findings suggest that women’s mate preferences do not shift across their ovulatory cycle. Hence, we did not find any compelling evidence for the Good Genes Ovulatory Shift Hypothesis. Rather, men who act more competitive and show more courtship behavior (e.g. flirting) are evaluated as being more attractive for sexual relationships (but less attractive for long-term relationships), independent of women’s cycle phase or hormone levels. Moreover, women seem to perceive or evaluate every man as slightly more attractive when fertile, compared to other cycle phases. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Readers should take away that women’s ovulatory cycle might not influence with whom they want to mate. Other recent studies support this finding as well. However, I still see newspaper articles or TV shows reporting evidence for the Good Genes Ovulatory Shift Hypothesis, ignoring newer, more robust studies. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: I think the result that women may perceive every men as slightly more attractive when fertile needs more future research. On the one hand, evidence for this claim is sparse so far, so we should take a closer look on the replicability and mechanisms in the future. On the other hand, it makes sense as other research robustly reports an increase in sexual desire in women’s fertile phase. Mate attraction and sexual desire might be connected and in line with higher mating motivation in the fertile phase of the cycle.

In addition, my recommendation is that future studies should focus on strong methods (e.g. large sample sizes, reliable cycle phase estimates) and Open Science practices, as studies using less strong methods have more potential to mislead than to enlighten.

Thank you very much for being interested in my research!


Stern, J., Gerlach, T. M., & Penke, L. (2020). Probing Ovulatory-Cycle Shifts in Women’s Preferences for Men’s Behaviors. Psychological Science




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Last Updated on March 10, 2020 by Marie Benz MD FAAD