Ovulatory shifts in women's attractions to primary partners and other men: further evidence of the importance of primary partner sexual attractiveness

PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e44456. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0044456. Epub 2012 Sep 12.


Previous research has documented shifts in women's attractions to their romantic partner and to men other than their partner across the ovulation cycle, contingent on the degree to which her partner displays hypothesized indicators of high-fitness genes. The current study set out to replicate and extend this finding. Forty-one couples in which the woman was naturally cycling participated. Female partners reported their feelings of in-pair attraction and extra-pair attraction on two occasions, once on a low-fertility day of the cycle and once on a high-fertility day of the cycle just prior to ovulation. Ovulation was confirmed using luteinizing hormone tests. We collected two measures of male partner sexual attractiveness. First, the women in the study rated their partner's sexual attractiveness. Second, we photographed the partners and had the photos independently rated for attractiveness. Shifts in women's in-pair attractions across the cycle were significantly moderated by women's ratings of partner sexual attractiveness, such that the less sexually attractive women rated their partner, the less in-pair attraction they reported at high fertility compared with low fertility (partial r = .37, p(dir) = .01). Shifts in women's extra-pair attractions across the cycle were significantly moderated by third-party ratings of partner attractiveness, such that the less attractive the partner was, the more extra-pair attraction women reported at high relative to low fertility (partial r = -.33, p(dir) = .03). In line with previous findings, we found support for the hypothesis that the degree to which a woman's romantic partner displays indicators of high-fitness genes affects women's attractions to their own partner and other men at high fertility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Choice Behavior
  • Courtship / psychology
  • Female
  • Fertility / physiology
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Luteinizing Hormone / metabolism
  • Male
  • Menstrual Cycle*
  • Ovulation*
  • Perception
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Sexual Partners


  • Luteinizing Hormone

Grants and funding

This research was supported by funding for Christina Larson from the National Science Foundation-funded University of California Los Angeles Interdisciplinary Relationship Science Program http://www.irsp.ucla.edu/, and was funded by grants from the University of California Los Angeles Council on Research Faculty Grants Program awarded to Martie Haselton http://www.senate.ucla.edu/committees/cor/fgp/. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.