Women in the fertile stages of their monthly cycle show increased levels of creativity compared to other times of the month, researchers claim.
A study, in which 751 women performed a creative task, was conducted in Poland by experts from the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Warsaw.
The team studied women with regular menstrual cycles who weren’t using hormonal contraceptives to get a baseline for the association with creativity.
They found that the women were better at creative thinking tasks immediately after ovulation, the time when they would be most likely to conceive.
According to Dr Katarzyna Galasinska, the study’s co-author, it is thought that women showed more creativity during this time because it helped them attract a partner.
Women in the fertile stages of their monthly cycle show increased levels of creativity compared to other times of the month, researchers claim. stock image
KEY FINDINGS: CREATIVE THINKING IMPROVED DURING OVULATION
Creative thinking is a defining human characteristic, which has helped to provide solutions that have contributed to our long-term survival and evolution.
However, according to signaling theory, creativity could also have evolved through sexual selection as a potential fitness indicator.
In a new study, Polish researchers tested one implication of this theory.
In particular, if creativity can serve as a signal of female fitness, then there should be an observable increase in creative thinking in the fertile phase of the ovulatory cycle compared to other non-fertile phases.
They found a positive correlation between the probability of conception and both creative originality and flexibility in 751 volunteers.
For the study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, researchers studied a group of Polish women, all between the ages of 18 and 35.
The women gave the researchers information about their menstrual cycles so that they could keep track of when they would ovulate.
For the experiment, the women were shown an image of an ambiguous scene with many different people.
They were then asked to generate as many questions as possible based on that scene within five minutes, trying to be as creative as possible.
Their ideas were then scored by independent reviewers to determine their creativity and originality.
The results showed that the higher the woman’s probability of conception, the more original ideas were generated and rated higher.
The ideas generated near ovulation were also more varied and included more frequent changes in perspective than those not near ovulation.
“It means that the peak of fertility in the middle of the cycle brings about changes that are visible not only on a physiological, but also on an emotional, cognitive and behavioral level,” said Dr Galasinska.
“Women have evolved in such a way that they unconsciously start to behave differently when the time comes to conceive; the goal of reproduction – namely finding the best candidate and possessing its genes for offspring – is activated therein.’
A study, in which 751 women performed a creative task while also filling out a form to demonstrate their arousal level, was conducted in Poland by experts from the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Warsaw. stock image
Why ovulation is ‘invisible’ in humans
Competition for mates between prehistoric human females may have contributed to “hidden ovulation” — a lack of remarkable physical evidence that a woman is fertile, experts say.
Using computer models, US researchers have found evidence that hidden ovulation in humans — which is generally uncommon in the animal kingdom — evolved to allow females to hide their fertility status from other females.
This would have helped to avoid female conflict, perhaps driven by aggression towards potential rivals for male partners.
Previously, scientists thought that women evolved to hide ovulation from men to encourage them to help care for children.
The new research shows that the origins of hidden ovulation are actually much more female-centric than previously thought.
She said the findings may be due to women’s motivation improving during this time, as previous studies have shown, or because they take more risks.
An increased level of estradiol – the predominant form of estrogen during the reproductive years – is associated with an increased release of dopamine in the brain.
‘Sex hormones are then a kind of mood enhancer, and a positive mood influences the flexibility of thinking,’ says Dr Galasinska.
‘Women also feel braver and more powerful, which means that they sometimes find themselves in risky situations in the phase around ovulation.
‘To be creative, we have to take a little risk, because creativity requires breaking patterns and mental blocks.’
dr. Galasinska said the results were positive for women, who could learn to use their cycle to their advantage.
“So what I’d like women to be aware of is that all the time around ovulation,” she said.
“When estrogen increases (and before it drops), our physiological processes are our allies and keep us high.”
‘Maybe now is the time to sort out the most important things around participation in development projects, or just to create something.
“The time remaining in the cycle therefore seems better for evaluation and a critical look at what has been done.”
The findings are published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
How women can tell when other females are ovulating using facial cues – and then try to hide their partners from the ‘threat’ of these fertile ladies
Experiments have shown that females can recognize ovulating females by looking at their faces. They were shown pairs of faces (composites pictured) to pick the most attractive and threatening in terms of luring a date away. On the left a composite ‘fertile’ face and on the right a composite ‘less fertile’ face
Experiments in 2016 showed that females can also recognize ovulating females simply by looking at their faces.
And it’s thought that this “skill” could help women hold onto their partners.
Recent research has shown that men find images of ovulating women more attractive than the same people taken in the later, less fertile phase of their menstrual cycle.
In fact, women have been reported to dance, walk, sound, smell and look more attractive during their most fertile days.
Men’s ability to recognize signs of fertility benefits them as it increases their chances of passing on their genes.
While some experts believe it is of no benefit to women to pick up on each other’s ovulatory signals, others say it is helpful when it comes to competing for men.
Researchers from the University of Bern, Switzerland, have set up experiments to examine how fertile and non-fertile women interact.
They hypothesized that ovulating women could be seen as a reproductive threat and luring men away from their partners.
In an online study, 160 women were shown pairs of photos where one image was generated when a woman was at her most fertile and another in the less fertile phase of the cycle.
The participants were asked to indicate which face they found more attractive.
Another lab experiment performed the same test on 60 women.
In addition to choosing the more attractive face, these participants were asked which woman would be more likely to steal their own date.
Blood was taken to record the women’s hormone levels.
Both experiments showed that, unlike men, women found neither the “fertile” or “less fertile” faces more attractive than each other.
This came as a surprise to the researchers who expected women to find the faces of their fertile peers more attractive.
But “naturally cycling” women with higher estradiol levels who were not on the Pill were more likely to choose the fertile face as one of a woman who would lure her date away.
‘These results imply a role of estradiol’ [a type of oestrogen produced in the ovaries] in evaluating other women competing for procreation,” says the study, published in the Royal Society’s Journal, Biology Letters.
The finding is consistent with studies that found positive associations between estradiol levels and competitive behavior in women, such as a greater emotional response to sexual infidelity.
“Our data suggest that estrogen in women is more related to intrasexual competition than testosterone,” the scientists write.
“Ovulatory women (who are currently fertile) pose a greater threat to women with high estradiol levels (who are currently not fertile but have high potential fertility).”