Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, Volume 14, May 19, 2011


It's That Time of the Month:
The effect of hormonal shifts on female mate value, depressive symptomology, and short-term mating orientation

Heather M. Adams, M.A and Victor X. Luevano, Ph.D.
California State University, Stanislaus
Psychology Department

Presented at the SSSSWR Conference, San Francisco, CA, April, 2011

Address correspondence to Heather Adams: hadams0778@sbcglobal.net


Despite past research examining mate value, sociosexual orientation (specifically short-term mating orientation), and depressive symptomology across the menstrual cycle, no single study has examined how these variables relate to each other. Thirty-three normally cycling, single, heterosexual women, age 18 to 33 (M = 21), answered questions regarding their sociosexual orientation, self-perceived mate value, and experience of depressive symptoms during the early-follicular (low-fertility) and late-follicular (high-fertility) phases of the menstrual cycle. Paired t-tests revealed marginally significant changes in mate value variables associated with self-trait analysis (MVI-7) showing higher scores during the late-follicular phase compared to the early-follicular phase. No significant differences were found between early-follicular and late-follicular phases for short-term mating orientation, depressive symptomology and other mate value variables (i.e., self-perceived mating success, Two-item mate value inventory, and mating effort). Looking at overall means, a negative correlation was found between depressive symptomology and mate value, and a positive correlation was found between short-term mating orientation and mate value variables. These findings show outcome differences between self-trait and externally based mate value measures and also offer evidence supporting the importance of separating early-follicular and luteal phases when studying “low-fertility” menstrual cycle effects due to the confounding effects of progesterone.


Research has looked at how hormones affect women by either increasing attention/desire towards masculine males who offer superior genetics or shifting it towards less masculine men who may offer strong parental investment. Feinberg et al. (2006), for example, found that women showed an increase in attraction to male voices with increased vocal tract length and lower pitch during the high-fertility late-follicular ovulatory phase of the hormone cycle. Women have also shown attraction to males who are taller (Pawlowdki & Jasienska, 2005) and have also been found to show stronger preference for the scent of men with increased body symmetry close to ovulation (Gangestad & Thornhill, 1998; Thornhill & Gangestad, 1999) both of which have been correlated with higher genetic quality (Thornhill & Gangestad, 1993). Evolutionarily, these shifts are highly advantageous since it is within the ovulatory stage that a woman is most fertile and thus when a potential mate’s genetic quality is most important. These findings emphasize the importance of including behavioral as well as physiological measures when studying the effects of cycle specific hormonal shifts.

One of the hormones that fluctuates across the menstrual cycle is testosterone, which has been negatively correlated with depressive symptomology in women (Davis, Davison, Donath, & Bell, 2005). Depressive symptoms include downward shifts in self evaluations. One self evaluation of importance is mate value. Mate value, simply stated, is the level to which a person has traits desired by the opposite sex (Apicella & Marlowe, 2007). Those with high self-perceived mate value feel that they have more traits desired by the opposite sex than others in the competitive mating pool. Self-perceived mate value may be affected by the same shifts that have been correlated with depressive symptomology (Apricella & Marlowe, 2007; Landolt, Lalumiere, & Quinsey, 1995).

Kirsner, Figueredo, and Jacobs (2003) have pointed out that depressive symptoms can be related to a reduction in self-perceived mate value. Therefore, women who exhibit an increase in depressive symptomology may have a decreased sense of self worth and thus accept a lower quality mate. Beaulieu (2007) looked at differences in perceived mate value between high-fertility and low-fertility women and found that, during late-follicular ovulatory phase, mate selection standards for an “ideal mate” were more strongly influenced by perceived mate value. Overall, women in the late-follicular ovulatory phase of their cycle may have had an increase in mate value which led women to more stringent standards when selecting a mate. It is evolutionarily beneficial for women’s self-perceived mate value to increase during their peak fertility so they can be more confident when seeking out a mate. It is important to understand the cause of shifts in emotional states in order to fully understand the dynamics of attraction and mating behavior. What these results do not answer is what mechanisms may be causing these behaviors and feelings. It is important to keep the effects of hormonal changes at the forefront of any research looking at shifts in female attraction towards males.

Possibly independent of hormonal shifts, sociosexual orientation (acceptance or non-acceptance of sex without commitment) is also a factor in female mate attraction (Buss & Shackelford, 2008; Townsend & Wasserman, 1998; Jackson & Kirkpatrick, 2007). Depending on a woman’s sociosexual orientation she may prefer short-term mating or long term mating overall. This paper will examine the results of previous literature on changes in female mate value, depressive symptomology and short-term mating orientation across the menstrual cycle and provide new data on how these variables change and correlate to one another while focusing on the possible correlates of estradiol and testosterone.

Research over the years, looking at humans and other species, has found that females appear to adopt a mixed mating strategy. Women’s mate preferences change across the menstrual cycle (Gangestad & Cousins, 2001). For example, women appear to have a preference for qualities that correlate with higher testosterone levels like shoulder-waist-ratio (Brawn & Bryan, 2006), masculine facial features (Johnston, Hagel, Franklin, Fink, & Grammer, 2001), facial symmetry (Danel & Pawlowski, 2007; Gangestad, 1993), height (Pawlowski & Jasienska, 2005), and intrasexual competition (Gangestad, Simpson, Cousins, Garver-Apgar, & Christensen, 2004) during their most fertile period when genetic health is most valuable to them. Interestingly, higher ratings of attractiveness related to symmetrical faces is most prominent in paired females who have partners that are asymmetrical (Little, Jones, Burt, & Perrett, 2007, Gangestad, et al., 2005). Facial asymmetry has been positively correlated with developmental instability and may be associated with lower genetic quality (Gangestad, et al., 2005). Paired women, compared to single women, also have been found to have higher numbers of sexual fantasies involving men other than their primary partner (Gangestad, Thornhill, & Garver, 2002; Pillsworth, Haselton, & Buss, 2004; Gangestad, et al., 2005) and have been shown to be more receptive to extra-pair couplings during their peak fertility period.

Within the literature, researchers have leaned heavily on the luteal (high-progesterone) phase of the female menstrual cycle as the “low-fertility” period. Much of the current research has compared late follicular (high fertility) to luteal (low-fertility). The problem is that hormonal correlates to behaviors and psychological changes are difficult to make since testosterone and estradiol peak during the late follicular phase and progesterone peaks during the luteal phase. If a clear determination is to be made as to possible hormonal correlates of physiological and psychological changes across the cycle, researchers should make comparisons that look for a change in a single factor.

Mate Value

Self-perceived mate value is defined as the view of one’s value to potential mates based on the qualities assumed to be sought by the opposite sex in a particular mating market, as well as one’s value compared to mating competitors (Buss & Shackelford, 2008; Apicella & Marlowe, 2007; Landolt, et al., 1995).

Research by Kirsner, et al. (2003) found that women who scored high on the Beck Depression Inventory (Beck, Ward, Mendelson, & Mock, 1961) had lower self reported perceived value as a mate. As depressive symptomology increased the rated mate value of prospective short-term and long-term partners as well as friends decreased. The negative correlation was most pronounced when choosing a long term partner, followed by a best friend, and then a short-term partner. Results indicated that decreased perceived value affected who women were attracted to because it shifted their sense of which partners were of equal value to themselves.

The dynamic in which those with a particular mate value tend to group together is called assortative mating (Miller, 2000). Assortative mating helps to create a relationship where both parties offer perceived equal value to each other. A male’s parental investment, for example, can be balanced with a female’s attractiveness. Assortative mating allows both parties in a relationship not only to get the highest level of desired traits, but also alleviates stress. The reduction of relationship stress comes from the fact that both parties feel that they are both offering and receiving the best possible traits. If, instead, one person in the relationship is offering more than they are receiving there is a good chance that eventually they will leave the relationship for a more equitable situation. So, overall, a person who believes they have a lot to offer the opposite sex will demand more in return.

In line with assortative mating, Montoya (2008) found that women’s subjective (self ratings) and objective (ratings by others) physical attractiveness was negatively correlated with their rubric for acceptable male suitors. This means that as women’s objective physical attractiveness (attractiveness as rated by others) increased, their ratings of a male’s attractiveness decreased. Additionally, as women’s subjective (their self-assessment) attractiveness increased, their bar as to who they thought they would be rejected by decreased.

Females with high self perceived mate value are generally choosier when they engage in sexual relations (Tadinac & Hromatko, 2007). Due to this, women with high self-perceived mate value tend to be more satisfied with their long term relationships (Hromatko, et al., 2006). This may be due to the fact that these women can usually acquire their first choice in a mate.

Depressive Symptoms

Those exhibiting depressive symptomology have been said to have a negativity bias with regard to themselves and their surroundings (Beck, 1967). Kirsner et al. (2003) stated that depressed individuals may lower the standard they use to find potential mates because they have lowered their personal self-worth. If individuals feel negatively about themselves they would have increased pessimism about social/sexual exchanges or may lack the cognitive processes to view the world, and themselves, in an accurate manner (Cosmides & Tooby, 1992).

Short-term mating orientation (STMO) has been found to be correlated with higher self perceived attractiveness in women (Clark, 2004). Attractiveness is a trait highly sought after by males and thus, it would be logical to think that it would be associated with higher mate value. So perhaps sociosexual orientation may shift during the late follicular (ovulatory) phase when self perceived attractiveness changes. At this point it is unknown whether hormone levels affect sociosexual orientation, if sociosexual orientation changes across the menstrual cycle, or if it is related to mate value.

Scope and Hypothesis

Many have looked at menstrual cycle fluctuations, Sociosexual Orientation, and perceived mate value, but what has not been investigated in the research is a combination of these factors, with emphasis placed on eliminating the possible effects of progesterone, and associated shifts in depressive symptomology across the cycle to attempt to explain the outward changes in female sexuality. Could it be that shifts in hormones correspond to shifts in short-term mating orientation (STMO), perceived mate value (determined through self rated traits, general attractiveness judgments from other, perceived mating success and effort), and depressive symptomology? We hypothesize that:


Fifty six women completed session one; 33 of those completed both sessions. Participants were recruited through the campus online participant pool and email solicitation. Some participants were given credit toward psychology course credit and all participants were entered into a raffle to win a $50 cash prize as an incentive.

The mean age of the 33 participants was 20 years old (SD = 2.79) with a range of 18 to 28 years. Thirty nine percent were of Hispanic descent, 33 percent White/Non-Hispanic, and approximately 12 percent Asian/Pacific Islander.

All participants were single, heterosexual, normally cycling, not using hormonal birth control within the past three months and/or not pregnant or nursing an infant within the past three months.


Participants were pre-screened to determine eligibility and demographic information was gathered throughout the two session study to determine continued eligibility. The demographic questionnaire included information on age, sexual orientation, birth control use, pregnancy, last and next menstrual cycle dates. Additional questions included history of cycle regularity, diagnosis of fibroids, whether the participant had undergone a hysterectomy, relationship status, and ethnic group affiliation.

To determine restricted vs. unrestricted sexuality participants were given the modified Sociosexual Inventory (SOI). The SOI contains 20 questions assessing participants’ opinions about and reports of sexual behavior (Jackson, J., & Kirkpatrick, L., 2007). Respondents scoring high on short-term mating orientation (STMO) are considered sexually unrestricted and tend to be relatively comfortable engaging in sex without commitment and with multiple partners. Jackson and Kirkpatrick (2007) reported Cronbach’s α of .95 and .88 respectively for each of the two scales (STMO and LTMO). For this study, Cronbach’s α for the two scales were .93 and .79 respectively.

Self-Perceived Mating Success (SPMS) (Landolt, Lalumiere, & Quincy, 1995). The SPMS scale consisted of questions asking participants to respond using a 7-point Likert-type scale (i.e., 1 = strongly disagree to 7 = strongly agree). Examples of questions include, “Members of the opposite sex that I like, tend to like me back”, and “I receive many compliments from members of the opposite sex.” Landolt, Lalumiere, and Quincy (1995) found that these questions had an internal consistency of .83. Internal consistency for this study was similar with Cronbach’s α = .86.

Two-item Mate Value (MV-2) and Mating Effort . MV-2 (Apicella & Marlowe, 2007) and mating effort (Landolt, Lalumare, & Quinsey, 1995) questions were given with a 7-point Likert-type scale (i.e., 1 = strongly disagree to 7 = strongly agree). Examples of these questions include, “I believe that members of the opposite sex find me attractive” for MV-2 and, “I spend a lot of time flirting with the opposite sex as an example of mating effort. Apicella and Marlowe (2007) found reliability for MV-2 to be high (Cronbach’s α = .82). For this study MV-2 reliability was similarly high with Cronbach’s α =.78.

Mate Value Inventory 7 (MVI-7). The MVI-7 was created by Kirsner, et al. (2003) in an effort to create an improved mate value assessment. The measure includes 19 questions where participants are asked to use a 7-point Likert-type scale to: “Rate how well the following traits describe you using the provided scale with 1 = not descriptive of you at all and 7 = describes you perfectly.” Examples of traits presented include, “Ambitious”, “Kind and understanding”, and “intelligent”. Internal validity was high with Cronbach’s α = .88 for self ratings.

Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). The BDI (Beck, et al., 1961) consists of 21 questions. The inventory addresses several areas including sadness, punishment feelings, and dislike. Each item it rated on a scale of 0 to 3 with higher numbers reflecting higher depressive symptomology. It has a high alpha coefficient, (.80) its construct validity has been established, and it is able to differentiate depressed from non-depressed patients . Internal consistency for college populations was high with Cronbach’s α = .93 (Beck, Ward, Mendelson, & Mock, 1961) . Cronbach’s α for this study was .87.

Recruitment and Interview

Fifty six females were recruited via email at a local community college and through the CSU Stanislaus Psychology Departments’ online participant pool, Thirty three participants completed both high and low fertility sessions. Participants from the community college were eligible for extra credit (determined by participating professor) and CSU Stanislaus students received two points of extra credit. All Participants were entered into a raffle to win a $50 cash prize. Instructors provided other extra credit opportunities to students who were not eligible for this study.

Solicitation for both groups included eligibility requirements and a link to a secure site that directed them to the informed consent form. If participants chose to participate they were presented with the pre-participation interview questions. This information was used to schedule their sessions (i.e., high fertility vs. low fertility) based on their menstrual cycle. The pre-participation interview also included questions regarding reproductive health (e.g. “Do you suffer from fibroids?”).

Assignment and Session One

After the researcher used the pre-participation interview information to determine participants who are in low or high fertility phase (high-fertility periods were determined using a backwards counting method with days 13-16 prior to next anticipated menstrual cycle being high fertility and days 6-8 after beginning menses being low fertility), participants were emailed a date and time for their first participation session. At the scheduled participation time participants were presented with a series of questionnaires. Participants then received an inter-session debriefing form and a reminder of their rights as participants (e.g. the freedom to withdraw from participation, etc.).

Session Two

Participants received an e-mail notifying them of their upcoming second session in the study. The second session materials and procedure were identical to those in session 1.


All statistical tests were run on Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS Version 16). For all tests, alpha was set to p < .05. Ten participants were high-fertility/late-follicular during session one (low-fertility/early-follicular = 23). Participant data was compiled with low-fertility/early-follicular data grouped together regardless of whether data was received in the first or second session.

Hypothesis one stated that during the early-follicular (low-fertility) phase mate value (MVI-7, MV-2, Mating Effort and Self Perceived Mating Success) and short-term mating orientation (STMO) would be lower than during the late-follicular (high-fertility) phase. Paired t tests (Table 1) indicated that MVI-7 was marginally significant, p = .08. Contrary to prediction, tests for MV-2, Mating Effort, SPMS and STMO were not found to be statistically significant, yet were all in the expected direction (Table 1).

Table 1.

Mate value variables means, BDI means, STMO means, and (Standard Deviations) for early-follicular and late-follicular ovulatory menstrual phase


Early Follicular

Late Follicular/ ovulatory






5.51 (.62)

5.62 (.61)





4.49 (1.01)






Mt. Effort

3.93 (1.88)


4.17 (1.72)





4.51 (1.04)


4.61 (1.07)







2.50 (1.41)


1.39 (.36)

2.51 (1.49)


1.29 (.53)











Hypothesis two stated that during the early-follicular (low-fertility) phase Beck depression scores would be higher than during the late-follicular (high-fertility) phase. Paired t tests were performed comparing the high-fertility mean Beck Depression scores and the low-fertility mean Beck Depression scores (Table 1). While this difference was in the expected direction, it was not statistically significant, p = .15.

Hypothesis three stated that scores on the Beck Depression Inventory would be significantly negatively correlated with mate value (MVI-7, MV-2, Mating Effort and Self Perceived Mating Success-SPMS) and short-term mating orientation (STMO). As predicted, BDI scores were significantly negatively correlated with MVI-7, p = .014 scores. However, there were no significant correlations between BDI scores and MV-2, p = .11, Mating Effort, p = .43, and SPMS, p = .54. (Table 2)

Table 2.

Correlations between total mean Beck Depression Scores, MVI-7, Two-item mate value, Mating Effort, Self Perceived Mating Success, and Short-term Mating Orientation.




Mt. Efft.










- .33 *








Mt. Effort












.32 *









Note: *p < .05, **p < .01, (2-tailed)

Regarding the relationship between overall mean BDI and overall mean STMO scores, contrary to prediction, results show that no significant relationship was found between BDI and STMO scores, p = .58.

Hypothesis four stated that overall mean short-term mating orientation (STMO) scores would be positively correlated with overall mean mate value (MVI-7, MV-2, Mating Effort and SPMS) scores. Contrary to predictions no correlation was found between STMO and MVI-7, p = .14 or STMO and MV-2, p = .52. A significant positive correlation was found between STMO and SPMS, p = .016. A significant correlation was also found between STMO and Mating Effort, p = .008.


The aim of this study was to look for possible relationships between hormonal shifts during the female menstrual cycle with variables known to affect mating and depressive symptomology. Where many studies have shown relationships among depressive symptomology, mate value, and the female menstrual cycle no study, to my knowledge, has focused on the early-follicular phase in an effort to eliminate the effects of progesterone on physiological and psychological findings. Previous research has either combined early-follicular and luteal phases into a generic “low fertility” phase or excluded the early-follicular phase using only the luteal phase for comparison to the late-follicular ovulatory, high fertility, phase. The use of the luteal phase prohibits conclusions regarding estradiol and testosterone due to the introduction of progesterone. In this study the analysis of the early-follicular phase compared to the late follicular (ovulatory) phase allows for a better analysis of the primary effects of testosterone and estradiol.

Depressive Symptomology and Mate Value

Due to the factors associated with mate value determination, those based on self-rated traits and those based on the perceived actions of others, as well as previous research linking mate value and depressive symptoms (Kirsner, et al., 2003), it was hypothesized that mate value scores would be negatively correlated with depressive symptomology

Results confirmed that overall mean mate value (determined through self-rated traits-MV-7) was negatively correlated with depressive symptoms. Whereas the two-item mate value assessment, the self- perceived mating success, and mating effort scores are based on how the participant felt they would be reacted to by others; the MVI-7 is relatively independent and reflects how the participant rates herself independent of what others may think.

Other mate value variables (MV2, self perceived mating success and mating effort) were also expected to be negatively correlated to depressive symptomology. These measures were correlated in the anticipated negative direction but were not significant. So while these variables were also measures of mate value it appears that they do not have a similar significant relationship with depressive symptomology. The Beck Depression Inventory used to determine depressive symptomology for this study uses questions regarding many areas associated with depression including weight loss, fatigue, feelings of guilt, irritability, sleep changes, and lack of interest in sex. So while women with higher self-trait analysis may also have fewer depressive symptoms, other aspects used to determine depression (irritability, feelings of guilt, etc.) may be related to other variables. Mate value variables based on the perceived actions of others may not be as closely tied to the variables which the Beck Depression Inventory uses to establish depressive symptomology and thus a stronger association was not seen. Overall, a woman may feel she has the traits to be highly sought after, yet still have other depressive symptoms not associated with those traits. It is important to note that women in this sample exhibited low depressive symptoms overall averaging 1.43 on a scale from 0 to 3, with higher scores indicating increased depressive symptoms. So the lack of results may be due to a lack of any depressive symptoms in this group.

The results indicate that depressive symptomology is more strongly associated with internally driven self analysis than externally driven self analysis as seen by Kirsner, et al. (2003). They excluded measures of mate value that were determined through the perceived actions of others, like the MV-2, so it was unknown whether overall mate value was negatively correlated with depressive symptomology. This study fills that gap by looking at both internal and externally based mate value to see if specific aspects of mate value are associated with depressive symptomology. It is recommended that this area receive further investigation to tease these factors out further.

Depressive Symptomology and Short-Term Mating Orientation

Short-term mating orientation (STMO has previously been correlated with higher self-perceived attractiveness (Clark, 2004). Attractiveness in women has been linked to higher mate value since men generally put attractiveness highest on their list of desired female traits. Mate value, as determined through self-trait analysis, has been shown to correlate with depressive symptomology (Kirsner, et al., 2003). So, depressed women, or those with depressive symptomology, may have low perceived mate value and feel less attractive or feel less sought after by the opposite sex. For that reason it was hypothesized that those individuals with depressive symptoms would have lower STMO scores. This hypothesis was not supported. Beck depression levels were not significantly negatively correlated with STMO scores. Whether a relationship with STMO may be visible only during higher levels of depression or when there is a more wide ranging change in depressive symptomology is still undetermined.

Short-Term Mating Orientation and Mate Value

Since, as stated earlier, STMO has been correlated with higher self-assessments of attractiveness (Clark, 2004), it was hypothesized that STMO would also be positively correlated with mate value variables. Perceived mating success was found to be significantly positively correlated with STMO. Mating effort was also significantly positively correlated with STMO. Despite these findings, other assessments of mate value (2-item mate value, or MV2, and MVI-7) did not significantly correlate with STMO.

These findings support the notion that women who report a higher acceptance of uncommitted sexual encounters (higher STMO) have higher perceived success in the active mating pool. Opportunistic drives may be a strong factor in STMO with those who feel that their advances will be reciprocated (high self perceived mating success) and who exhibit more mating effort showing higher affiliation with this orientation or vice versa. On the other hand, those with high STMO scores may simply be less attune to social interactions and thus may see their advances as being more positively received than they actually are. Without direct measures investigating perceived success with actual success this is only speculation.

Significant positive correlations between STMO and SPMS and mating effort were very interesting since MVI-7 and MV-2 were both significantly positively correlated with SPMS and Mating Effort yet when compared to STMO there was no significant correlation found. Additionally, on the surface SPMS appears to be very similar to MV-2 in the type of questions asked yet their correlation with STMO was not similar. One rationale may be found when looking at the specific wording used in the MV-2, MVI-7, SPMS, Mating Effort, and STMO questions. STMO, SPMS and Mating Effort are all predominately sexually-based while the MVI-7 and MV-2 are focused more on attractive traits and general attraction levels. So, perhaps the genre of questions (sexually vs. non-sexually based) caused these variables to show a higher correlation since those which were sexually based had significant positive correlations with STMO.

High Fertility vs. Low-Fertility Mate Value, Short-Term Mating Orientation, and Depressive Symptomology

It was hypothesized that mate value and STMO would increase in the late-follicular phase as this increase would lead to enhanced mating when copulation would be most likely to result in impregnation. For the same reason it was hypothesized that depressive symptomology would decrease during the late-follicular phase because, as stated earlier, it would decrease attempts to copulate during the most fertile phase of the cycle and thus be counterproductive. When comparing the early-follicular (low-fertility) phase with the late follicular (high-fertility) phase, ratings of mate value assessed through internal descriptive adjectives and phrases (MVI-7), were marginally higher in the late-follicular ovulatory phase. Higher internal mate value would lead females to have less fear that they would be rejected by potential mates and thus would be very beneficial in the late-follicular ovulatory phase when the chance of conception is higher (Montoya, 2008).

Across early and late-follicular phases, significant differences in other mate value variables, STMO, and depressive symptomology were not found although all but MV-2 were in the expected direction. For an unknown reason MV-2 scores, which are based on the participants’ perceived actions of others, decreased during the late-follicular ovulatory stage, though this decrease was not significant.

The lack of hormonal measures in this study allows for only a speculation as to the reason for the lack of significant changes in depressive symptomology across the early and late-follicular ovulatory phases. It is recommended that future research include hormone measurements to provide a clear determination of a possible shift.

With regard to STMO, it has not been adequately shown to be either static or fluid in nature based on this study. Allen and Kent (2007) hypothesized that perhaps there is a difference between mating tactics and mating strategies. While mating strategies (short-term vs. long term) may not change across the cycle, mating tactics (opportunistic efforts) may change due to changes in perceived effort and success. The significant positive correlation between STMO and mating effort as well as STMO and self perceived mating success (SPMS) appear to corroborate this idea.


One explanation for the lack of significant results may be the manner in which early and late-follicular ovulatory periods were calculated. The late-follicular ovulatory phase was determined with a backwards counting method (13-16 days prior to the next expected menstrual cycle being the day ovulation is most likely to occur). Unfortunately, confirmation of the next menstrual cycle start dates were not completed, so ovulation estimations could not be confirmed and thus the phases may have been misidentified. An improved method of analysis would have included hormonal assay to determine peak fertility periods. It is recommended that future research use hormonal assessment (or at minimum gather data over several cycles) to determine the late-follicular period so an accurate fertility date can be determined and thus hormone changes can be correlated with possible shifts in STMO, mate value and depressive symptomology.

Additionally, this study focused on single women. Some of the studies showing the strongest changes in mating behavior across the cycle included paired females. As stated earlier paired females with asymmetrical mates showed higher rates of attraction towards, and fantasies of, males other than their primary partner. For this study we decided to exclude paired females since single females would be less likely to use hormonal birth control. The exclusion of females on hormonal birth control was key since it could mask the effects of naturally cycling hormones. If paired women had been included perhaps significant results would have been found.

Future Directions and Conclusions

One aim of this study was to find the mechanisms of previously found shifts in mating strategies. Mate value, which had previously been shown to correlate with depressive symptomology and to change across the menstrual cycle, was teased apart to find specific areas of change. The findings have shown that subjective trait self analysis, as a measure of mate value, appears to be affected by depressive symptomology, or vice versa, more than mate value determined by the perceived actions of others.

Future research should include a larger sample, paired females, and a more accurate means of determining peak fertility periods. A larger sample may strengthen correlations currently found and provide a sample with a wider range in depressive symptomology which may uncover negative correlations with externally based mate value assessments and short-term mating orientations. The inclusion of paired females would allow for comparison to past research showing stronger shifts in women who are in a relationship. Finally, using hormonal analysis or collecting data across several months would allow for a more accurate assessment of the ovulatory phase and would allow for variability, which may be present in one particular cycle, to be averaged out.

Overall, this study has added new findings with regard to cycle specific mate value and depression to the body of research in this area. Whereas other studies have focused their attention on the luteal and late-follicular phase, this study focused on the early and late-follicular phase. Since many of this study’s findings were contrary to previous findings in this area, future research should focus on the differences between the luteal and early-follicular phases of the cycle, like progesterone levels, to look for possible reasons for previously seen depression level and mate value shifts across the cycle. And, while correlations were certainly found between self perceived mating success, mating effort, and STMO, no other associated factors were found. This finding begs the question of whether an unrestricted sexual outlook is due to a higher mating success perception or vice versa. Wanting uncommitted sexual encounters and thinking that one can succeed in acquiring such encounters are very different. Some females may want an uncommitted sexual experience with males exhibiting high genetic markers but, due to their lack of perceived success, change their viewpoint to one with a higher success rate. It has not been determined in this study, or others to my knowledge, is whether opportunity for success would change a person’s sociosexual orientation over time. Based on other research (Clark, 2004), increased attention is certainly warranted.


Allen, S. & Bailey, K. (2007). Are mating strategies and mating tactics independent constructs? The Journal of Sex Research, 44(3), 1-14.

Apicella, C. & Marlowe, F. (2007). Men’s reproductive Investment Decisions: Mating, parenting, and self-perceived mate value. Human Nature, 18(1), 22-34. doi: 10.1007/BF02820844

Beaulieu, D. (2007). Avoiding costly mating mistakes: Ovulatory shifts in personal mate value assessment. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 24(3), 441-445. doi:10.1177/0265407507077232

Beck, A. T. (1967). Depression: Clinical, experimental, and theoretical aspects. NewYork: Harper and Row

Beck, A., Ward, C., Mendelson, M., & Ebraugh, J. (1961). An inventory for measuring depression. Archives of General Psychiatry, 4, 53-63.

Brawn, M. & Bryan, A. (2006). Female waist-to-hip and make waist-to-shoulder ratios as determinants of romantic partner desirability. Journal of Social and Personal Relasionships, 23(5), 805-819.

Buss, D. & Shackelford, T. (2008). Attractive women want it all: Good genes, economic investment, parenting proclivities, and emotional commitment. Environmental Psychology, 6(1), 134-146.

Buss, D. & Schmitt, D. (1993). Sexual strategies theory: An evolutionary perspective on human mating. Psychological Review, 100(2), 204-232. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.100.2.204

Clark, A. P. (2004). Self-perceived attractiveness and masculinization predict women’s sociosexuality. Evolution and Human Behavior, 25, 113-124. doi:10.1016/S1090-5138(03)00085-0

Cosmides, L. & Tooby, J. (1992). Cognitive adaptations for social exchange. In Barkow, J.H., Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J. (Eds.), The adapted mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the generation of culture (pp. 163-228). New Yort: Oxford University Press.

Danel, D. & Pawlowski, B. (2007). Eye-mouth-eye angle as a good indicator of face masculinization, asymmetry, and attractiveness (homo sapiens). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 121(2), 221-225. doi: 10.1037/0735-7036.121.2.221

Davis, S., Davison, S., Donath, S., & Bell, R. (2005). Circulating androgen levels and self-reported sexual function in women. Journal of the American Medical Association, 294(1), 91-96. doi: 10.1001/jama.294.1.91.

DeBruine, L., Jones, B. C., & Perrett, D. (2005). Women’s attractiveness judgments of self-resembling faces changes across the menstrual cycle. Hormones and Behavior, 47, 379-383. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2004.11.006

Feinberg, D., Jones, B., Smith, M., Moore, F., DeBruine, L., Cornwell, R.,…Perrett, D. (2006). Menstrual cycle, trait estradiol level, and masculinity preferences in the human voice. Hormones and Behavior, 49, 215-222. doi:1 0.1016/j.yhbeh.2005.07.004

Gangestad, S. W. (1993). Sexual selection and physical attractiveness: Implications for mating dynamics. Human Nature, 4(3), 205-235. doi: 10.1007/BF02692200

Gangestad, S. W. & Cousins, A. J. (2001). Adaptive design, female mate preferences, and shifts across the menstrual cycle. Annual Review of Sex Research, 12, 145-185.

Gangestad, S. W., Simpson, J. A., Cousins, A. J., Garver-Apgar, C. E., & Christensen, P. N. (2004). Women's preferences for male behavioral displays change across the menstrual cycle. Psychological Science, 15, 203-207. doi: 10.1111/j.0956-7976.2004.01503010.x

Gangestad, S., Thornhill, R., & Garver, C. (2005). Adaptations to ovulation: Implications for sexual and social behavior. American Psychological Society, 14 (6), 312-316.

Gangestad, S., Thornhill, R., & Garver, C. (2002). Changes in women’s sexual interest and their partners’ mate-retention tactics across the menstrual cycle: Evidence for shifting conflicts of interest. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 269, 975-982.

Gangestad, S. & Thornhill, R. (1998). Menstrual cycle variation in women’s preference of the scent of symmetrical men. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 265, 927-933.

Gangestad, S., Thornhill, R., & Garver-Apgar, C. (2005). Women’s sexual interest across the ovulatory cycle depends on primary partner developmental instability. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 272, 2023-2027.

Hromatko, I.,Tadinac, M., & Prizmic, H. (2006). Women’s hormonal status and mate value influence relationship satisfaction and perceived male attractiveness. Psychological Topics, 15, 315-330.

Jackson, J. & Kirkpatrick, L. (2007). The structure and measurement of human mating strategies: Toward a multidimensional model of sociosexuality. Evolution and Human Behavior, 28, 382-391. doi: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2007.04.005

Johnston, V., Hagel, R., Franklin, M., Fink, B., & Grammer, K. (2001). Male facial attractiveness: Evidence for hormone-mediated adaptive design. Evolution and Human Behavior, 22, 251-267.

Jones, B. C., DeBruine, L. M., Perrett, D. I., Little, A. C., Feinberg, D. R., & Smith, M. J. L. (2008). Effects of menstrual cycle phase on face preferences. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 37(1), 78-84. doi: 10.1007/s10508-007-9268-y

Jones, B. C., Little, A. C., Boothroyd, L., DeBruine, L. M., Feinberg, D. R., Smith, M. J. L,…Perrett, D.I. (2005). Commitment to relationships and preferences for femininity and apparent health in faces are strongest on days of the menstrual cycle when progesterone level is high. Hormones and Behavior, 48(3), 283-290. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2005.03.010

Kirsner, B., Figueredo, A., & Jacobs, W. (2003). Self, friends, and lovers: Structural relations among Beck Depression Inventory scores and perceived mate values/ Journal of Affective Disorders, 75, 131-148. doi:10.1016/S0165-0327(02)00048-4

Landolt, M., Lalumiere, M., & Quinsey, V. (1995). Sex differences in intra-sex variations in human mating tactics: An evolutionary approach. Ethology and Sociobiology, 16, 3-23. doi: 10.1016/0162-3095(94)00012-V

Little, A. C., Jones, B. C., & Burriss, R. P. (2007). Preferences for masculinity in male bodies change across the menstrual cycle. Hormones and Behavior, 51(5), 633-639. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2007.03.006

Little, A., Jones, B., Burt, M., & Perrett, D. (2007). Preferences for symmetry in faces changes across the menstrual cycle. Biological Psychology, 76, 209-216.

Miller, G. (2000). The mating mind: How sexual choice shaped the evolution of human nature. NewYork: Doubleday.

Montoya, R. (2008). I’m hot, so I’d say you’re not: The influence of objective physical attractiveness on mate selection. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(10), 1315-1331. doi:10.1177/0146167208320387

Pawlowski, B. & Jasienska, G. (2005). Women's preferences for sexual dimorphism in height depend on menstrual cycle phase and expected duration of relationship. Biological Psychology, 70(1), 38-43. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2005.02.002

Pillsworth, E., Haselton, M., & Buss, D. (2004). Ovulatory shifts in female sexual desire. The Journal of Sex Research, 41(1), 55-65.

Sundstrom-Poramaa, I. (2008). Action of progesterone and progesterone metabolites in menstrual-cycle-related disorders. Headache, 48, S90-S98.

Symonds, C., Gallagher, J., Thompson, J., & Young, A. (2004). Effects of the menstrual cycle on mood, neurocognitive, and neuroendocrine function in healthy premenopausal women. Psychological Medicine, 34, 93-102.

Tadinac, M. & Hromatko, I. (2007). Own mate value and relative importance of a potential mate’s qualities. Studia Psychologica, 49, 251-263.

Thornhill, R. & Gangestad, S. (1993). Human facial beauty: Averageness, symmetry, and parasite resistance. Human Nature, 4(3), 237-269. doi:1045-6767/93

Thornhill, R. & Gangestad, S. (1999). The scent of symmetry: A human sex pheromone that signals fitness? Evolution and Human Behavior, 20, 175-201. doi: 10.1016/S1090-5138(99)00005-7

Townsend, J. & Wasserman, T. (1998). Sexual attractiveness: Sex differences in assessment and criteria. Evolution and Human Behavior, 19, 171-191. doi: 10.1016/S1090-5138(98)00008-7

Return to Front Page