August 24, 2010
Ovulating Women Sexually Compete

It is possible to evoke in women an instinctual desire to sexually compete against other women. Okay, you already knew that. But here's an interesting way to measure this effect.

In an unconscious attempt to outdo female rivals, ovulating women buy sexier clothing, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

"Not unlike the chimps featured on the Discovery Channel, women become more competitive with other females during the handful of days each month when they are ovulating. The desire for women at peak fertility to unconsciously choose products that enhance appearance is driven by a desire to outdo attractive rival women," write authors Kristina M. Durante, Vladas Griskevicius (both University of Minnesota), Sarah E. Hill (Texas Christian University), Carin Perilloux (University of Texas at Austin) and Norman Li (Singapore Management University).

Ovulating women were shown photos of either attractive or not so attractive women. Then they were asked to choose clothing to purchase. The women who had looked at more attractive women chose sexier clothing. Non-ovulating women were not similarly affected.

In the study, researchers had ovulating women view a series of photographs of attractive local women and then asked them to choose clothing and accessories to purchase. The majority of participants chose sexier products than those who were shown photos of less attractive local women or women who lived more than 100 miles away. The authors found that women were not conscious of their choices and the researchers did not find the same effect in non-ovulating women.

The study's findings have practical implications for marketers. "For about five to six days each month, normally ovulating womenóconstituting over a billion consumersómay be especially likely to purchase products and services that enhance physical appearance," the authors conclude.

Since non-ovulating women do not see the same effect does that mean that ovulating women are also easier to make jealous? Also, do women on the birth control pill act like ovulating or non-ovulating women? Also, what physical features in the appearance of attractive women do most to elicit sexy clothes buying behavior? Do women share men's appreciation of big breasts? Red make-up?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 August 24 07:26 AM  Brain Sexuality

Fat Man said at August 24, 2010 8:28 AM:

And who paid for this "research"? Really. Is there any wonder that the country is going broke?

jmanon said at August 24, 2010 8:37 AM:

I don't follow your last comment regarding the "obvious but unmentioned control." The excerpt you quoted says this "and the researchers did not find the same effect in non-ovulating women," which I took to mean they tried it but perhaps you read it differently.

Randall Parker said at August 24, 2010 6:09 PM:


My mistake. I fixed it. Thanks.

Joe said at August 25, 2010 11:12 AM:

A few years back, someone in England did a series of studies of women going out dancing and found the same thing. The effect wasn't minor. The other interesting finding was that women in long term relationships found other men increasingly attractive while ovulating.

AB said at August 25, 2010 10:57 PM:

This is interesting. I have had several women tell me that a particular female judge makes decisions in family law cases based on how attractive the wife is. The more attractive, the less she gets, whether in custody or any other issue. This judge is known for wearing tight tight clothing. I never thought much about it until I read this.

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