L Schleifenbaum, J C Driebe, T M Gerlach, L Penke, and R C Arslan (in press)

Women feel more attractive before ovulation: Evidence from a large-scale online diary study

Evolutionary Human Sciences.

How attractive we find ourselves decides who we target as potential partners and influences our reproductive fitness. Self-perceptions on women’s fertile days could be particularly important. However, results on how self-perceived attractiveness changes across women’s ovulatory cycles are inconsistent and research has seldomly assessed multiple attractiveness-related constructs simultaneously. Here, we give an overview of ovulatory cycle shifts in self-perceived attractiveness, sexual desirability, grooming, self-esteem and positive mood. We addressed previous methodological shortcomings by conducting a large, preregistered online diary study of 872 women (580 naturally cycling) across 70 consecutive days, applying several robustness analyses, and comparing naturally cycling women to women using hormonal contraceptives. As expected, we found robust evidence for ovulatory increases in self-perceived attractiveness and sexual desirability in naturally cycling women. Unexpectedly, we found moderately robust evidence for smaller ovulatory increases in self-esteem and positive mood. Although grooming showed an ovulatory increase descriptively, the effect was small, failed to reach our strict significance level of .01 and was not robust to model variations. We discuss how these results could follow an ovulatory increase in sexual motivation while calling for more theoretical and causally informative research to uncover the nature of ovulatory cycle shifts in the future. 

preregistration, open analysis code, open material, open access article