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Women's attractiveness changes with estradiol and progesterone across the ovulatory cycle

In many species, females
are more sexually attractive to males near ovulation. Some evidence
suggests a similar pattern in humans, but methodological limitations
prohibit firm conclusions at present, and information on physiological
mechanisms underlying any such pattern is lacking. In 202
normally-cycling women, we explored whether women's attractiveness
changed over the cycle as a function of two likely candidates for
mediating these changes: estradiol and progesterone. We scheduled women
to attend one session during the late follicular phase and another
during the mid-luteal phase. At each session, facial photographs, voice
recordings and saliva samples were collected. All photographs and voice
recordings were subsequently rated by men for attractiveness and by
women for flirtatiousness and attractiveness to men. Saliva samples were
assayed for estradiol and progesterone. We found that progesterone and
its interaction with estradiol negatively predicted vocal attractiveness
and overall (facial plus vocal) attractiveness to men. Progesterone
also negatively predicted women's facial attractiveness to men and
female-rated facial attractiveness, facial flirtatiousness and vocal
attractiveness, but not female-rated vocal flirtatiousness. These
results strongly suggest a pattern of increased attractiveness during
peak fertility in the menstrual cycle and implicate estradiol and
progesterone in driving these changes.

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