(Feb. 26, 2014) -- For approximately one week every month, millions of women change their economic behavior and become more focused on their social standing relative to other women.
According to new research from The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management, the ovulatory cycle alters women's behavior by subconsciously motivating them to outdo other women. This research could have important implications for marketers, consumers and researchers.
The researchers conducted three studies, one of which had ovulating and non-ovulating women play the "dictator game." In this popular economic experiment, a person is given a fixed amount of money that she can choose to share with another person.
"We found that ovulating women were much less willing to share when the other person was another woman. They became meaner to other women," said Kristina Durante, assistant professor of marketing in the UTSA College of Business and lead author of the study.
Whereas non-ovulating women shared about 50 percent of the money with another woman, ovulating women shared only half as much, keeping the rest of the cash for themselves.
In another study, women made product choices that could either maximize their individual gains or maximize their relative gains compared to other women. For example, women indicated if they preferred to have a $25,000 car while other women got $40,000 cars (Option A) or have a $20,000 car while other women got $12,000 cars (Option B). The study found that ovulating women preferred Option B, choosing products that would give them higher standing compared to other women.
"What's interesting about this finding is that ovulating women are so concerned about their relative position that they are willing to take less for themselves just so that they could outdo other women," said study co-author Vladas Griskevicius, associate professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management.
But, the studies find that ovulation doesn't always make women want more status. When women played against a man rather than a woman in the dictator game, the researchers found an even more surprising result. Whereas ovulating women became meaner to women, they became nicer to men. While non-ovulating women shared about 45 percent of the money with a man, ovulating women gave 60 percent of the money to the man.
"These findings are unlike anything we have ever seen in the dictator game. You just don't see people giving away more than half of their money," noted Durante. "One possibility is that we're seeing ovulating women share more money as a way to flirt with the men."
"Money, Status and the Ovulatory Cycle" was published in the February issue of Journal of Marketing Research and builds on Durante and Griskevicius' previous work that has shown how the ovulatory cycle alters preferences for romantic partners, clothing, food and even politics. Based on studies rooted in theory and research in evolutionary biology and evolutionary consumer behavior, their findings that ovulating women jockey for position over other women is consistent with the literature on animals. For example, studies have shown that female monkeys become more aggressive toward other females when fertile.
Ultimately, Durante and Griskevicius' findings on women's monthly hormonal fluctuations could have important implications for consumers, marketers and researchers. Marketers especially might be able to use this information strategically by emphasizing the superiority of a given product in advertising, promotions and messages to female consumers.
The UTSA Women’s Studies Institute and Women’s Studies Program will feature film screenings, provide lectures and book readings that promote diversity and focus on achieving social justice and women’s empowerment.
Various locations, Main, Downtown and Hemisfair Campuses
The exhibition is a juried competition featuring recent work by UTSA undergraduate and graduate students. The selected works represent the full range of materials, methods, and techniques, ranging from traditional processes to contemporary digital photography and video.
Arts Building Main Art Gallery (ART 2.03.04), Main Campus
UTSA and the San Antonio Express-News will jointly host a town hall meeting where panelists will discuss various aspects of the broad topic of school funding in Texas. It's free and open to the public.
Buena Vista Street Building Theater (BVB 1.326), Downtown Campus
Annual memorial event honoring members of the UTSA community who passed away in the previous year.
Student Union Retama Auditorium (SU 2.02.02,) Main Campus
Amin Qutub, UTSA associate professor of biomedical engineering, will introduce the latest advances in science and technology illustrating how daily behaviors influence the ability of our brain cells to repair and regenerate, enabling a future that optimizes brain health.
McNay Art Museum, 6000 N. New Braunfels, San Antonio
UTSA faculty and staff are encouraged to share thoughts, experiences and ideas on inclusive excellence at UTSA.
Student Union Anaqua Room (SU 2.03.08), Main Campus
March Into Your Major is an event for students who are unsure of their major, have chosen a major but are not sure it’s the right fit for them or students who are confident of their choice of major but are unsure of what careers they can actually pursue with their major.
Convocation Center, Main Campus
As part of UTSA's 50th Anniversary celebration, Fred Schneider, computer science professor at Cornell University, will speak on Impediments to Incentivizing Cyber-security Investment." The lecture is free and open to the public.
Biosciences Building Loeffler Room (BSB 3.03.22), Main Campus
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