In several of my posts, I have discussed the effects of the menstrual cycle on a wide range of phenomena including the desirability of a woman's body odor, her breast symmetry, her gait, and her receptivity to male advances. In today's post, I'd like to discuss a forthcoming paper by Debra Lieberman, Elizabeth G. Pillsworth, and Martie G. Haselton to be published in Psychological Science wherein they explored the extent to which daughters and their fathers interact on the phone as a function of the menstrual cycle. You might ask yourself: Why should the menstrual cycle affect such interactions?

The general idea is that when in estrus, females across numerous species avoid male kin, as a means of avoiding the deleterious consequences of inbreeding. Lieberman and her coauthors reasoned that this evolved mechanism should manifest itself in contemporary ways such as in the extent to which daughters interact with their fathers on the phone.

The researchers kept track of the menstrual cycle of 48 participants as well as the log of their calls (via phone bills). They hypothesized that women should be less likely to call their fathers than their mothers when maximally fertile, and they should spent less time interacting on the phone with their fathers (as compared to their mothers) when maximally fertile. This menstrual effect should not be operative during the non-fertile phase of their menstrual cycle. Here are the key findings:

(1) During the fertile phase, women called their fathers less frequently than their mothers (p < .001) and they chatted with the fathers for fewer minutes than they did with their mothers (p < .001). These effects were not found during the non-fertile phase.

(2) Parents' calls to their daughters were unaffected by the menstrual cycle. In other words, to the extent that there is a mechanism for inbreeding avoidance, it seems to be driven by the daughters' differential behaviors toward their parents (and not vice versa).

(3) When daughters received phone calls from their parents, they spent less time interacting with both mothers and fathers on high-fertility days. However, the menstrual effect was stronger when interacting with fathers (p < .09).

The bottom line is that daughters display differential behaviors across their menstrual cycle in terms of their phone calling patterns albeit this effect is largely restricted to their interactions with their fathers.

This reminds me of the old Stevie Wonder song, I Just Called To Say I Love You. Fathers: Expect such a call only when your daughters are not ovulating!

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About the Author

Gad Saad

Gad Saad, Ph.D., is a professor of marketing at Concordia University and the author of The Evolutionary Bases of Consumption and The Consuming Instinct.

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