Ovulation as a Male Mating Prime: Subtle Signs of Women's Fertility Influence Men's Mating Cognition and Behavior

Saul L. Miller*, Jon K. Maner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations

Abstract

Women's reproductive fertility peaks for a few days in the middle of their cycle around ovulation. Because conception is most likely to occur inside this brief fertile window, evolutionary theories suggest that men possess adaptations designed to maximize their reproductive success by mating with women during their peak period of fertility. In this article, we provide evidence from 3 studies that subtle cues of fertility prime mating motivation in men, thus facilitating psychological and behavioral processes associated with the pursuit of a sexual partner. In Study 1, men exposed to the scent of a woman near peak levels of fertility displayed increased accessibility to sexual concepts. Study 2 demonstrated that, among men who reported being sensitive to odors, scent cues of fertility triggered heightened perceptions of women's sexual arousal. Study 3 revealed that, in a face-to-face interaction, high levels of female fertility were associated with a greater tendency for men to make risky decisions and to behaviorally mimic a female partner. Hence, subtle cues of fertility led to a cascade of mating-related processes-from lower order cognition to overt behavior-that reflected heightened mating motivation. Implications for theories of goal pursuit, romantic attraction, and evolutionary psychology are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-308
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Volume100
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2011

Keywords

  • Attraction
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Menstrual cycle
  • Romantic relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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