November 01, 2013 / Ovulation Studies: Read the Study, not the Abstract
Many studies, including a popular one discussed here, make exaggerated claims in their Abstracts.
Be careful when reading studies
There is a considerable amount of research out there on attraction, sex, dating, and women. Much of this research can be very valuable in understanding women, attraction, sex, and dating. However, it is extremely important to READ THE ACTUAL STUDY and not just abstracts or cherry picked quotes by the news. This holds true for just about every type of study, but attraction and sex related studies, perhaps because ‘sex sells’ are NOTORIOUS for publishing highly misleading conclusions from their data.
In particular, studies on women and sexual behavior during ovulation stand out. Many seduction experts like to believe (or at least tell their readers and students) that ovulation plays a huge part in seduction and that they should learn how to tell if a woman is ovulating. This makes some logical sense on the surface: Women should be more interested in sex when they are most fertile. They will also point to many studies, especially the study: "Fertility in the cycle predicts women’s interest in sexual opportunism" by S. Gangestad, R. Thornhill, and C. Garver-Apgar.
Abstracts are often sensationalized for publicity purposes
The news and seduction experts love to quote the abstract which, amongst it says: "Relative to during the luteal phase, fertile women expressed (a) greater emphasis on the physical attractiveness of a partner; (b) greater arousal at the sight or thought of attractive male bodily features; (c) greater willingness to engage in and interest in sex with attractive men, even ones who they do not know well (interest in sexual opportunism). These findings importantly extend our understanding of women’s fertile-phase sexuality."
Sounds pretty powerful, doesn’t it? Factor in the evolutionary logic and it seems like ovulation plays a huge role in attraction, sex, and seduction. It seems like getting women to sleep with you should be as easy as asking her when she last had her period. If it were only so easy… So what gives? The simple explanation is, the study above’s abstract is highly misleading at best.
Most people stop at the abstract, instead of reading the full study
The abstract of the aforementioned study is powerful, but since the study is only available for a fee, most are unlikely to have read it, or simply like to quote the unquantified results from the abstract. Well, I bought the research, and the results actually hardly show any link between being fertile and "women’s interest in sexual opportunism". Here are the "numbers", the "meat" if you will:
Table 1. Marginal means for high- and low-fertility phases
|High fertility||Low fertility||High fertility||Low fertility|
|Preference for Physical Attractiveness||.434 (.038)||.396 (.032)||.507 (.030)||.500 (.037)|
|Interest in Attractive Bodily Features||.531 (.036)||.449 (.036)||.698 (.028)||.707 (.027)|
|Sexual Opportunism||.188 (.027)||.149 (.025)||.340 (.040)||.357 (.041)|
|Enjoyment of Casual Sex||.197 (.036)||.240 (.039)||.447 (.050)||.426 (.049)|
|Belief in Polygamy||.078 (.023)||.118 (.031)||.111 (.036)||.111 (.040)|
|Belief in Chastity||.529 (.055)||.538 (.053)||.322 (.055)||.311 (.054)|
|Sexual Desire||2.72 (.155)||2.57 (.157)||3.17 (.118)||3.06 (.138)|
Only the italics were statistically significant per the author. Even then, the results were hardly meaningful (not to mention this study is fraught with confounding factor issues, response consistency issues, and a small sample size).
For example, "Sexual Opportunism", the most likely statistic to impact seduction, only went from 0.149 in the non-ovulating case to 0.188 in the ovulating case. That less than 0.04 increase is hardly useful in an actual real life situation, especially once you discount this slight increase in "sexual opportunism" by the chances you can actually tell if a woman is ovulating and then by the chance she is interested in "sexual opportunism" with you.
Also, despite the authors failing to highlight this result, enjoyment of casual sex was actually higher in non-ovulating women than ovulating women according to their study. Hmmm…
The author’s themselves admit their results were "quite modest"
Furthermore, the authors themselves wrote the following, verbatim: "The amount of actual change in responses from low-fertility to high-fertility phases observed in this study was actually quite modest."
So, in other words, a more accurate abstract conclusion would be: "There may be some differences in sexual desire and behavior of women throughout their cycle but the changes observed were modest for the most part."
Don’t fall for sensationalist bullshit (aided by respected PhD’s no less!) without doing your homework. Put in the time and money to read actual studies that are quoted by so called "seduction experts" and the media. It will save you much more time and money in the long run, not to mention how much more you will learn from reading studies versus simply their abstracts.
My view on ovulation? More or less useless for seduction
What about ovulation? The reality is whether or not a woman is ovulating has very low practical benefit when it comes to picking up women. Societal factors have long since trumped any evolutionary factors related to ovulation and female sex drive to the point where even in controlled studies such as the Gangestad study referenced above the differences are "quite modest". Focus on becoming a more interesting person, learning how to have conversation, along with other proven techniques that build attraction.
PS Have an attraction study you want us to take a look at and provide some feedback? Let us know! Also, don’t forget to get our 100% free e-book on women and attraction (below).