• Sometimes science is all about “coulda” and not about “shoulda”

    I have a friend who loves to send me links to studies he knows I’m going to start screaming about. This would be a good example of such a study (but that came from a different friend). Yesterday, he sent me “Ovulation and Perceived Paternal Investment“:

    Why do some women pursue relationships with men who are attractive, dominant, and charming but who don’t want to be in relationships – the prototypical sexy cad? Previous research shows that women have an increased desire for such men when they are ovulating, but it is unclear why ovulating women would think it is wise to pursue men who may be unfaithful and could desert them. Using both college-aged and community-based samples, in three studies we show that ovulating women perceive charismatic and physically attractive men, but not reliable and nice men, as more committed partners and more devoted future fathers. Ovulating women perceive that sexy cads would be good fathers to their own children, but not to the children of other women. This ovulatory-induced perceptual shift is driven by women who experienced early onset of puberty. Taken together, the current research identifies a novel proximate reason why ovulating women pursue relationships with sexy cads, complementing existing research that identifies the ultimate, evolutionary reasons for this behavior.

    Here’s that in chart form:

    Here’s a quote from the author:

    “Previous research has shown in the week near ovulation women become attracted to sexy, rebellious and handsome men like George Clooney or James Bond,” said Durante. “But until now it was unclear why women would ever think it’s wise to pursue long-term relationships with these kinds of men.”

    Evidently, she really has a problem with George Clooney. And that’s all I’m going to say about this.


    • Chimp gene studies show that female chimps pursue relationships on the sly with less than alpha males. It’s possible that the attraction to sexy cads is a way of getting prime genes, while the rest of the time, she sticks with the not-so-sexy sure bet who will support her kids (and father most of them).

      Of course, to test this hypothesis, researchers have to find a way to quantify whether women think they can get away with cheating.

    • Wow, that’s some effect size. Something like 8 out of 100 women change their minds on sexy cads, and 2 out of 100 change their minds on nice guys. And that assumes this study is replicable, which I would not assume.