Hormonal changes associated with the human menstrual cycle have been previously found to affect female mate preference, whereby women in the late follicular phase of their cycle i. Past research also suggests that romantic kissing is utilized in human mating contexts to assess potential mating partners. The current study examined whether women in their late follicular cycle phase place greater value on kissing at times when it might help serve mate assessment functions.
Using an international online questionnaire, results showed that women in the follicular phase of their menstrual cycle felt that kissing was more important at initial stages of a relationship than women in the luteal phase of their cycle. Furthermore, it was found that estimated progesterone levels were a significant negative predictor for these ratings. Hormonal changes associated with the human menstrual cycle have been found to have discernible effects on female sexual and mating behavior.
While it has been known for some time that female sexual desire spikes in the days surrounding ovulation Reganit has recently been discovered that preferences for certain types of mating partners also co-vary with phases of the menstrual cycle. For example, women in the late follicular phase of their cycle in the days immediately preceding ovulation when risk of conception from a single act of intercourse is at its peak report elevated levels of general attraction to men Garver-Apgar et al.
Women in this Kissing and romancing phase have also been found to be more accurate at judging male sexual orientation Rule et al. Many of the traits outlined above, including masculinity, dominance, and facial symmetry, are believed to be acting as signals of underlying genetic competence, which is in turn responsible for Kissing and romancing health, developmental stability and superior immune-responsivity for reviews see Rhodes ; Roberts and Little Mating with a partner who possesses such a robust gene set increases the odds that resulting offspring will be endowed with similar genetic advantages.
However, a negative relationship seems to exist between genetic fitness indicators such as these and behaviors associated with long-term parental investment.
For example, higher testosterone levels in utero, responsible for the development of masculine features, higher fluctuating testosterone levels in adulthood, and various male-typical behaviors, have also been found to correlate with greater relationship infidelity, a larger number of lifetime sexual partners, higher chances of divorce, lower biological sympathy responses to crying infants, as well as compromised immune function Booth and Dabbs ; Fleming et al.
Choosing a mate of superior genetic health, therefore, may necessitate a trade-off: It has been proposed that, faced with this dilemma, women may seek to improve their overall long-term reproductive fitness by pursuing a mixed-mating strategy: Such a mating strategy explains the plethora of data found thus far on subconscious shifts in mate preference across the menstrual cycle, whereby genetically fit sexual partners are preferentially favored at a time of the cycle when copulation is most likely to lead to conception i.
Research on female mate preference shifts Kissing and romancing luteal cycle phases Kissing and romancing some way to corroborating theories about mixed-mating strategies.
When women are at the lowest risk of conception from a single Kissing and romancing encounter, they have been found to show preferences for men displaying cues associated with kinship, such as pheromones indicating a similar MHC genetic makeup and faces with higher levels of self-resemblance, as well as for cues of present health for a review see Jones et al.
It has been proposed that because mating in the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle involves little risk Kissing and romancing conception, women at this time pursue decision strategies geared towards affiliating with individuals likely to provide a supportive social environment, such as kin DeBruine et al. However, it seems that mate-preference shifts driven by luteal phases of the cycle may not be as robust as shifts seen during late follicular phases.
The drivers behind a behavioral adaptation such as this are likely to be related to the steroid hormones which fluctuate in tandem with the menstrual cycle, Kissing and romancing estrogen and progesterone. Indeed, part of the reason that mate preference shifts seem to be at their most pronounced between the late follicular and luteal phases of the menstrual cycle is due to the fact that the two phases are associated with the most prominent spikes in levels of estradiol estrogen and progesterone hormones, respectively Durante and Li ; Jones et al.
Furthermore, menstrual cycle fluctuations in mate choice preferences are typically only observed among normally cycling women not using any kind of hormonal contraception e. Since several studies have already demonstrated menstrual cycle effects on female preferences for various cues related to mate desirability, it seems worthwhile to examine whether these effects extend to other cues associated with mate choice.
Previous research has found that the cross-culturally prevalent custom of Kissing and romancing kissing is one mate cue that can been exploited in the assessment of potential mating partners Hughes et al. Based on previous findings that romantic kissing can serve a mate assessment function, the present study was designed to explore whether menstrual cycle shifts can be seen in female attitudes towards romantic kissing at different stages of a relationship. It was predicted that normally cycling women in the late follicular high risk of conception phase of their menstrual Kissing and romancing would place greater importance on kissing during the Kissing and romancing stages of a relationship, where it would be most useful as a preliminary mate assessment device, than women in the luteal low risk of conception phase of their cycle, with these shifts being driven by menstrual hormones.
Participants were required to be over 18 years of age to complete the survey; no identifying personal data were collected and participants were informed that their responses were completely voluntary and anonymous. Participants were required to provide informed consent, and were offered the chance to enter a prize Kissing and romancing for an online shopping voucher upon completion of the questionnaire.
General demographic information was also collected. For all analyses, data were only used from women who reported having a regular menstrual cycle whose length fell within the normal ranges of 22 to 36 days Chiazze Kissing and romancing al.
To Kissing and romancing the menstrual cycle phase at Kissing and romancing time of answering the survey, information was used about the last date of menses onset and typical cycle length to estimate day of ovulation using the reverse cycle day method—approximated as 15 days prior to next estimated onset of menses see Pillsworth et al. This method is preferable to forward-counting methods because previous research has found that the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle accounts for much of the variation in average cycle length Fehring et al.
For analyses involving a binary measure of cycle phase, participants undertaking the experiment on the estimated day of ovulation or within 5 days prior to ovulation were classed as being in the late follicular phase of their cycle i. These cycle days represent the largest differences in progesterone and estradiol levels throughout the menstrual cycle Durante and Li ; Jones et al. For analyses investigating the hormonal mechanisms driving menstrual-cycle-shift behavior effects, estradiol and progesterone levels on any given day of the cycle were estimated using mean serum estradiol and progesterone reference values derived from normally cycling women within 15 days of ovulation Stricker et al.
For analyses involving the binary variable of Kissing and romancing in their late follicular and luteal cycle phases only, participants consisted of 50 women in the luteal phase and 34 women in the late follicular phase of their menstrual cycle at the time of completing the survey.
Importance of kissing during initial relationship stages grey markersdashed line versus established relationship phases black markerssolid line across the menstrual cycle. To determine if key hormones associated with the menstrual cycle might be acting as underlying drivers of participant responses, linear regression analyses were carried out, regressing estimated levels of estradiol and progesterone onto answers to the same questions.
As can be seen in Table 1progesterone levels were found to be a significant negative predictor for ratings of the importance of kissing only during the initial stages of a relationship.
Linear regression analyses of estimated estradiol and progesterone levels regressed onto ratings of the importance of kissing at Kissing and romancing and established stages of a relationship.
Next, answers given by women at different phases of their cycle to questions about the importance of factors contributing to a good kiss were examined. However, after these initial analyses were corrected for multiple comparisons, the two significant findings were edged out of the range of statistical significance.
Linear regression analysis indicated that neither estimated estradiol nor progesterone levels were significant predictors for any of the three PCA extracted factors 0. Inspection of the scree plot suggested a clear inflection point at 3 components, with all components displaying eigenvalues over 0. This study found that when asked about the importance of kissing at initial Kissing and romancing of a relationship, women in the late follicular phase of their menstrual cycle i.
When it came to kissing at the more established phases of a relationship, women in the late follicular and luteal phases of the menstrual cycle considered kissing equally important, and neither estimated estradiol nor estimated progesterone levels were associated with ratings of Kissing and romancing importance. Previous research indicates that women in late follicular phases of their menstrual cycle, who are at the highest risk of conception, show an increased preference for men possessing cues signaling underlying genetic superiority or compatibility, including masculinized faces, facial symmetry, social dominance, and MHC compatibility Gangestad and Thornhill ; Havlicek et al.
The results of the current study synthesize these findings by showing that attitudes towards romantic kissing vary across the menstrual cycle and are significantly associated with the fluctuation of menstrual hormones. That no cycle phase shift was found for ratings of kissing importance at established relationship phases, a situation in which the initial assessment of a mate is no longer pertinent, supports the premise that romantic kissing may Kissing and romancing a particularly useful role in the earliest stages of a relationship, when Kissing and romancing partner evaluation is most likely to take place.
The fact that progesterone was significantly negatively associated with ratings of kissing importance at initial relationship stages insinuates that it may be acting as a driver of this particular attitude shift. Progesterone is one of the candidate mechanisms thought to be responsible for various menstrual cycle behavioral changes Haselton and Gangestad and has previously been implicated in cyclic shifts in mate preference for healthy faces Jones et al.
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If one of the major functions of kissing is to assist individuals in assessing the quality of a mate via olfactory or gustatory cues, then women at high conception risk and low progesterone levels should place greater value on components of kissing which might aid them in assessing the genetic suitability of potential mates.
Since it has been previously suggested that semiochemicals found in skin oils and pheromonal secretions might convey information about underlying health and genetic quality Durham et al. It is interesting to note than women in the late follicular phases of their cycle also show increased sensitivity to odors and display faster Kissing and romancing processing times Doty et al.
This increased sensitivity would be particularly useful in assessing mate olfactory cues at the most reproductively critical time of the menstrual cycle—when sexual intercourse is most likely to lead to conception. It was predicted that hormones associated with the menstrual cycle may also be related to other facets of kissing which could be conveying mate quality information such as scent of body or taste of lips.
However, none of the other traits sampled suggested significant relationships, implying that kissing may be useful in assessing cues related primarily to breath. When responses to this question were analyzed using PCA, Kissing and romancing three factors that were extracted coincided with several previously proposed theories on possible functions of romantic kissing.
The final PCA factor appears to be related to kissing technique and may also be indicative of mate quality in certain situations, as research in related fields suggests that Kissing and romancing quality of execution of complicated behavioral rituals such as dancing may be a cue to underlying genetic quality Hugill Kissing and romancing al.
It might be that physical awkwardness or poor coordination during intimate courtship behaviors such as kissing may act as a signal of substandard fitness. None of these extracted factors, however, were significantly related to estimated levels of progesterone or estradiol, suggesting that they may not confer the same level of mate-quality information as pleasantness of breath alone does.
The findings from this study indicate that women in the late follicular stages of their menstrual cycles place greater value on kissing in the early stages of a relationship, and that this behavioral shift seems to be Kissing and romancing to menstrual cycle Kissing and romancing in the hormone progesterone.
Furthermore, women with low estimated levels of serum progesterone seemed to state that pleasantness of breath was a more important component of kissing than did women with high estimated levels of progesterone.
These findings extend previous research on shifts in mating partner preferences across the mating cycle, while also building on previous evidence that romantic kissing may be utilized in the process of assessing the suitability of potential mates.
At this point, investigations into the menstrual cycle and romantic kissing as a mate assessment device are still in their infancy, and future research in this field would benefit from study designs based on more methodologically challenging experimental designs in which subjects rated actual kissing experiences, and where measures of fluctuating menstrual hormones were taken using more direct measures.
The authors would like to thank Eiluned Pearce for early document proofing. His research interests revolve around evolutionary approaches to the study of human behavior, particularly human courtship and pair-bonding. His principal research interests are in social evolution in mammals, with particular reference to ungulates, primates and humans, and the ways in which ecology, behavior, cognition and neurobiology interact.
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Rafael Wlodarski and Robin I. Author information Copyright and License information Disclaimer. The publisher's final edited version of this article is available at Hum Nat.
See other articles in PMC that cite the published article. Abstract Hormonal changes associated with the human menstrual cycle have been previously found to affect female mate preference, whereby women in the late follicular phase of their cycle i. Menstrual cycle, Romantic kissing, Mate assessment, Relationships.
Estimations of Menstrual Cycle Kissing and romancing and Risk of Conception For all analyses, data were only used from women who reported having a regular menstrual cycle whose length fell within the normal ranges of 22 to 36 days Chiazze et al. Participants For analyses involving the binary variable of women in their late follicular and luteal Kissing and romancing phases only, participants consisted of 50 women in the luteal phase and 34 women in the late follicular phase of their menstrual cycle at the time of completing the survey.
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Table 1 Linear regression analyses of estimated estradiol and progesterone levels regressed onto ratings of the importance of kissing Kissing and romancing initial and established stages of a relationship. Components 1 2 3 Pleasant breath 0. Kissing and romancing This study found that when asked about the importance of kissing at initial stages of a relationship, women in the late follicular phase of their menstrual cycle i.
Acknowledgments The authors would like to thank Eiluned Pearce for early document proofing. Copulation, Masturbation and Infidelity. Booth A, Dabbs JM. The length and variability of the human menstrual cycle. Journal of the American Medical Association. Endocrine, cardiovascular, and psychological correlated of olfactory sensitivity changes during the human menstrual cycle.
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Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing. Testosterone and prolactin are associated with emotional responses to infant cries in new fathers. Females increase offspring heterozygosity and fitness through extra-pair matings.
Parasites, bright males, and the immunocompetence handicap. Gangestad SW, Thornhill R. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Major histocompatibility complex alleles, sexual responsivity, and unfaithfulness in romantic couples.