The Super Discriminating Powers of Ovulating Women

Two new studies say they have powers far greater than anyone would expect

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The Atlantic Wire learned back in health class that ovulation is required for pregnancy in women. This is a good thing, as it helps perpetuate the human race and brings adorable babies. But according to two new studies from researchers at the University of Toronto and Michigan State University, ovulation also turns women into fertile, super discriminating savants. This is more of a mixed bag.

On the one hand, there's the University of Toronto study that came out last week, in which women shown pictures of male faces "judged the sexual orientation of 80 images of men's faces." Half were of straight men, half were of gay men. Researchers discovered that "the nearer women were to peak ovulation, the more accurate they were at judging each male's sexual orientation." (In other words, their "Gaydar" got better.) Nicholas Rule, the University of Toronto psychology professor who authored the study, noted that the subjects didn't get any better at guessing the orientation of other females, suggesting "that fertility influences a heterosexual woman's attention to potential mates rather than merely increasing sensitivity to sexual orientation or nonverbal cues more generally."

Then there's a study from Michigan State University researchers published in Psychological Science this month that says women are most biased against "men of a different racial or social group" when they are at their most fertile. Study author Carlos David Navarette says this is a conditioned psychological response to guard against the "male strangers" and "male invaders" who have posed the "greatest risk to their reproductive choice" throughout history. It's based on thousands of years of evolution, but still, nobody wants to believe they have a racist reproductive cycle.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.