Researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management have found women dress more provocatively on days when they are most fertile.
An instinct tells women when they are most likely to conceive and they unknowingly set out to make themselves look as appealing as possible, but not for the benefit of potential partners.
Rather, the display is an attempt to outdo potential love rivals so that they look less desirable in direct comparison, researchers claim.
The ultimate aim is to capture the best partner possible, but women’s choice of attire is more influenced by other women who could stand in their way than a direct motivation to appeal to the man, experts said.
The study, which will be published in the Journal of Consumer Research, claims hormones have a direct impact on a woman’s behaviour when shopping.
The team of researchers showed 18 to 27 year old women — during different times in their menstrual cycle — pictures of other women. They were then told to choose which clothes they wanted to buy.
Of the women who were ovulating, those that were shown the most alluring photographs chose outfits that did more to enhance their appearance than those who were shown pictures of unattractive women or women who lived more than 1,000 miles away. Women who were not ovulating showed no similar variation in behaviour.
Dr. Kristina Durante, who led the research, told QMI Agency that a change in hormones prompts women to out-primp nearby females.
“Across species, when a female is fertile they act to attract the best mate at that time,” she said. “My thinking was there are products and services that are available to help women do that.”
The research has a real-world impact. Kristina Durante foresees certain stores syncing ad campaigns to a woman’s cycle.
“If you bought a sexy piece of clothing on a certain date, the store could be sending you material on similar clothes four weeks later,” she said.
Durante says fertile women — without knowing it — evaluate and assess the wow-factor of potential rivals, and try to stay ahead of the competing curves. Being aware of this effect may help women who are trying to regulate their shopping behavior, Durante said.
While her team studied hundreds of younger women for their research, the 36-year-old scientist suspects similar responses would be found among older shoppers.
For anyone trying to sell clothes: Using more local, “everyday”-looking women might make women more likely to buy than famous models who obviously don’t live in the area, she said.
Last year, Durante released a study that argued beautiful women have higher than average levels of the fertility hormone, oestradiol. This, she concluded, causes them to flirt and consider infidelity more.
History is littered with broken coffee cups tossed at men who’ve suggested hormones impact the women around them. But Durante says there’s no denying fundamental chemical reactions still call many of the shots. [Journal of Consumer Research via Daily Telegraph (UK) and CNN]