University of Göttingen
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Are estrous mate preference shifts robust? This question is the subject of controversy within human evolutionary sciences. For nearly two decades, mate preference shifts across the ovulatory cycle were considered an important feature of human sexual selection, directing women’s attention towards mates with indicators of “good genes” in their fertile phase, when conception is possible. However, several recent studies on masculine faces, bodies or behaviors have failed to find evidence supporting this account, known as the good genes ovulatory shift hypothesis. Furthermore, evidence that preferences for masculine characteristics in men’s voices are related to women’s cycle phase and hormonal status is still equivocal. Here, we report two independent within-subject studies from different labs with large sample sizes (N = 202 tested twice in Study 1; N = 157 tested four times in Study 2) investigating cycle shifts in women’s preferences for masculine voices. In both studies, hormonal status was assessed directly using salivary assays of steroid hormones. We did not find evidence for effects of cycle phase, conception risk or steroid hormone levels on women’s preferences for masculine voices. Rather, Study 2 suggests cycle shifts in women’s attraction to men’s voices regardless of masculine characteristics, though Study 1 provided only partly evidence for such attraction shifts. Women’s relationship status and self-reported stress did not moderate these findings, and the hormonal pattern that influences these shifts remains somewhat unclear. We consider how future work can clarify the mechanisms underlying psychological changes across the ovulatory cycle.
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