In this week’s ‘amazing reminder we’re all basically just animals being drive by primal impulses we scarcely understand’ news, a study has claimed that women subconsciously guard their sexual partners from other ovulating women.
And that’s not even the amazing bit: women, apparently, don’t have to ‘know’ that each other are ovulating for this to happen. They can just ‘sense it’, even from a picture.
Psychologists from Arizona State University published a paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology after conducting four studies with 478 heterosexual engaged or married women.
The participants were shown photographs of a series of women and asked to rank, on a seven-point scale, how happy they would be for the woman and their partners to become friends.
The study found that the participants were significantly more opposed to their partners spending time with the women in the photographs who were ovulating – despite not being told or having the subject raised before hand.
How could this happen? Well, according to other studies, including a 2012 report from the University of Göttingen in Germany, there are several discernable visual cues that indicate fertility in women that men and women alike are subconsciously aware of.
“Research across species demonstrates that social perceptions, cognitions, and behaviors do temporarily shift in response to ovulation, and that these shifts may enhance individuals’ reproductive fitness,” write the authors.
A far less surprising finding – that undoubtedly cut both ways across the sexes – was that women were more protective of their partners when the women in the photographs were physically attractive.
More interesting was the report’s conclusion that putting physical distance between their partners and other women was not the only ‘mate guarding’ tactic:
“Women reported that they would show increased sexual interest in their partners after viewing a high-fertility target, regardless of how attractive that target was.”
The important caveat here is that the women in the photographs were all strangers: in real life, trust in her friends or colleagues may well supersede any ‘mate guarding’ instincts against other ovulating women.