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
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Previous studies of changes in women's behavior during the menstrual cycle have offered insight into the motivations underpinning women's preferences for social cues associated with possible direct benefits (e.g., investment, low risk of infection) and indirect benefits (e.g., offspring viability). Here we sought to extend this work by testing for systematic variation in women's preferences for male and female faces and in their attitudes to their romantic relationship during the menstrual cycle. In Study 1, we found partnered women's reported commitment to their romantic relationship and preferences for femininity in male and female faces were strongest on days of the menstrual cycle when progesterone levels are increased (and fertility is low). Happiness in relationships did not change across the cycle. In Study 2, we found that the effect of cycle phase on women's preference for feminine faces was independent of increased attraction to apparent health in faces during the luteal phase. Collectively, these findings are further evidence that women's preferences for social cues associated with possible direct benefits and commitment to relationships are strongest during conditions characterized by raised progesterone level, while attraction to men displaying cues associated with possible indirect benefits is strongest when women are most fertile.