January 18, 2009
High Hormone Level Causes Serial Monogamy In Women

Women are more motivated to trade up if they have a lot of oestradiol in their blood.

AUSTIN, Texas Women with high levels of the sex hormone oestradiol may engage in opportunistic mating, according to a new study by psychology researchers at The University of Texas at Austin.

Doctoral candidate Kristina Durante and Assistant Professor of Psychology Norm Li published their findings in the article "Oestradiol Level and Opportunistic Mating in Women" in the Jan. 13 issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society of London: Biology Letters.

"The study offers further evidence that physiological mechanisms continue to play a major role in guiding women's sexual motivations and behavior," Durante said.

Durante and Li investigated the relationship between oestradiol, an ovarian hormone linked to fertility, and sexual motivation in a study of 52 female undergraduates not using contraception. Participants' ages ranged from 17 to 30 years old.

The researchers measured the participants' hormone levels at two points during each woman's ovulatory cycle and then asked them to rate their own physical attractiveness. Independent observers also rated the participants' physical attractiveness.

Participants also answered survey questions that measured their propensity to cheat on a partner.

The researchers found that a woman's oestradiol level was positively associated with self-perceived physical attractiveness. Women with a higher oestradiol level also reported a greater likelihood of flirting, kissing and having a serious affair (but not a one-night stand) with a new partner.

Oestradiol levels were negatively associated with a woman's satisfaction with her primary partner.

"Our findings show that highly fertile women are not easily satisfied by their long-term partners and are motivated to seek out more desirable partners," Durante explained. "However, that doesn't mean they're more likely to engage in casual sex. Instead, they adopt a strategy of serial monogamy."

I wonder how much of the serial monogamy is due to finding a better partner versus just feeling the need to find a different partner. Do the guys these women move on to score better in objective measures of physical attractiveness, wealth, or other factors?

How many of those dissatisfied women torment their partners before dumping them? Maybe a guy needs to know his girlfriend's hormone levels and an objective comparison of his and her level of attractiveness so that he can assess the odds of the relationship lasting.

Are you going to get traded in for a different model? Blame it on a hormone.

"These women are willing to trade up when the opportunity arises and continue to extract these lucrative resources from men when they can," says Kristina Durante, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Texas in Austin, who led the study. She thinks the behaviour could be an adaptation to the high costs of giving birth.

"For women it's all about the resources that we need. If you're going to be getting knocked up there's a significant cost," she says.

So then did Angelina Jolie finally decide that Brad Pitt was as attractive as she could find? Or will her hormones eventually cause her to move on? She's aging so if she moves on she's probably making a mistake.

The desire does not appear to be for more casual sex.

She said her results are consistent with the possibility highly fertile women are not easily satisfied by their long-term partners and are especially motivated to become acquainted with other, presumably more desirable, men.

However, such motivations do not seem to stem from a greater interest in casual sex, she added.

Prettier girls are more fertile.

"The prettier you are, the more fertile you are," said lead author Kristina Durante, a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas. And the more fertile, the more options and urges for mates, she said.

Don't believe her? See my posts Women With Hourglass Bodies Have More Reproductive Hormones and Women With Higher Estrogen Seen As More Attractive.

Update: Anyone have access to the full paper? My question: Adjusted for attractiveness do women with higher hormone level have more relationships? To put it another way: Is it the higher attractiveness's enabling of more relationships or greater motivation to have more relationships that causes this difference in outcome? I see from one news report that the researchers used observers to rate the attractiveness of their subjects and so the researchers should have been able to puzzle out whether motive or opportunity played a bigger role in causing the serial monogamy.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 January 18 06:51 PM  Brain Sexuality


Comments
Jerry Martinson said at January 18, 2009 9:12 PM:

Pretty women more fertile?

So I guess the flip side to marrying an attractive women is that when you try to conceive, unfortunately you will instantly and not get to enjoy a couple dozen months of her stalking you for awesome sex. Maybe it's better to marry someone who is plain.

Engineer-Poet said at January 19, 2009 1:02 PM:

I see a market for estradiol-antagonists.  If there are any that occur naturally, packaging them as vitamins could be a big seller.

Joe said at January 19, 2009 4:21 PM:

Participants also answered survey questions that measured their propensity to cheat on a partner.

Hmm, seems to me that you could make a damn good argument that "[w]omen with high levels of the sex hormone oestradiol may engage in opportunistic [lying]".

That aside, a woman who is stuck on herself, who sees herself as the center of a relationship, has low empathy for the other person. Her self-satisfaction overrides all other concerns. I have met women like this; men too--people so beautiful yet so narcissistic it makes you want to puke.

Which also implies that it may not always be the woman making the full decision. A man married to a narcissist may finally think "fuck this" and move on. Of course, the narcissist being to true to herself believes it was her who made that decision and nothing you say will change her mind. Know even more women (and men) like this.

th said at January 19, 2009 5:16 PM:

Do women become more fertile after plastic surgery?

th said at January 19, 2009 5:44 PM:

Isn't the notion better looking women are more fertile contrary to the odds, since ugly women may only have one chance, wouldn't it be the other way around, better looking women are less fertile since they get a much higher rate of interest? Or does evolution favor the good looking? Or did clairol do this study?

MS said at January 20, 2009 12:30 PM:

so, prettier = more fertile = gold digger

here's the Full Paper in PDF: tinyurl.com/968az5
( Upper Left: 'Request Download', then 'Download' )

Hope that helps.

Jerry Martinson said at January 20, 2009 1:10 PM:

Here's my favorite quote from the paper:
"Physically attractive women receive more male
attention (Buss & Barnes 1986)"
I like well-cited papers but what is going on with academia that people need to cite a claim like that?

simone said at January 21, 2009 7:49 PM:

Junk Science - n of 52 ... all was controlled for ... would it have been published if null result found ... I hope you don't buy this junk

Brian said at January 21, 2009 10:55 PM:

The next question is whether these woman have had children with any of these partners, and if being a mother naturally changes the levels of estradiol in a woman's blood. I would Imagine that an attractive(fertile), childless woman would have little disincentive to continually be seeking an upgrade. However, if she has children her desirability on the open market greatly diminishes, and the risk that an affair may never become a stable long-term relationship is more dangerous- it will sabotage her current relationship regardless, leaving the chance she winds up without any provider for her child. Perhaps gold-digging behaviors evolved as a sort of insurance policy- to build up resources in case opportunistic mate-hopping strategies backfire.

glenn said at January 22, 2009 4:54 PM:

So, Where are these women????

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