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Ovulation Makes Women Go for the 'Bad Boy' Men

a blog by Claire, May 15, 2012

Science has finally unearthed the age-old question of why women go for the bad boys and think they can change them into husband and father material.

It all comes down to hormones. (Of course.)

Researchers from the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) found that hormones associated with ovulation influence a woman's perception of a man as a potential father — but only for her own children. If she's evaluating the man's potential as a father for another woman's children, she sees him much more clearly.

In one study women viewed online dating profiles of either a sexy man or a reliable man during periods of both high and low fertility. The women were asked to indicate how much the man would contribute if they had a child together based on how helpful the man would be caring for the baby, shopping for food, cooking and contributing to household chores. Women who were near ovulation thought the sexy man would contribute more to these domestic duties.

“Under the hormonal influence of ovulation, women delude themselves into thinking that the sexy bad boys will become devoted partners and better dads,” says Kristina Durante, assistant professor of marketing at UTSA College of Business.

In a second study, women actually interacted with men playing the roles of the sexy bad boy and the reliable good guy, once during ovulation and another time during low fertility. Again, ovulating women thought that the sexy bad boy would be a better father, but, interestingly, only if she were his partner.

When the women were asked about the sexy guy's potential as a father if he were to father another woman's child, ovulating women shook off those hormones and were able to clearly point out the cad's shortcomings. "But when it came to their own child, ovulating women believed that the charismatic and adventurous cad would be a great father to their kids," Durante says. The study, “Ovulation Leads Women to Perceive Sexy Cads as Good Dads,” was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

So now we know why we're so much better at telling our friends who they should date than choosing for ourselves. But what would really be interesting to find out is if hormones lead women to actually choose the most "fertile" man who is most likely to get them pregnant in the first place.

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