According to a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, women demonstrate increased creative thinking when they are most fertile, during the ovulation phase of the reproductive cycle. The findings suggest that creativity may be a sexually selected trait that indicates a woman’s reproductive fitness.
Studies have shown that women’s peak fertility is consistent with certain clues that encourage mating behavior. For example, women are considered more attractive during ovulation, the phase of the reproductive cycle with the greatest chance of pregnancy. Some studies suggest that women also experience greater arousal and sexual desire during this time.
Emerging research suggests that women may also show cognitive changes during ovulation. In particular, preliminary studies have found that women are more creative at the time of ovulation. A researcher named Geoffrey Miller first suggested that creativity serves as a fitness indicator that communicates a person’s good health and genes.
Study authors Katarzyna Galasinska and Aleksandra Szymkow wanted to replicate these initial findings by testing whether women’s creativity scores matched their ovulation cycles. They also aimed to test whether increased excitation could explain this effect.
The study involved 751 Polish women with natural cycles. The women reported that they did not use hormonal contraceptives and were not pregnant. The participants also indicated the date of the first day of their last menstrual period, and the researchers used this information to calculate each woman’s day-specific probability of conception.
Participants also completed a self-report measure of arousal and participated in a creative task to measure diverse thinking. During the task, the women were shown a photo and asked to come up with so many questions about the picture within five minutes. Four independent judges then judged the participants’ answers according to originality, fluency and flexibility.
Consistent with expectations, participants’ probabilities of conception were positively related to the originality and flexibility of their responses. This suggests that women who were most fertile came up with questions that were more original and more varied than the women who were less fertile.
Women with higher fertilization probabilities also scored higher in arousal, although this ratio dropped below significant. Moreover, contrary to the study authors’ hypotheses, arousal did not mediate the relationships between conception probability and either creative originality or flexibility. The researchers maintain that this does not mean that arousal was not a relevant factor, noting that arousal can still affect a person’s cognition without them being aware of it. The study used a self-report measure of arousal and slight changes in arousal may not have been noticed by participants and therefore not captured. Future studies should use physiological measures of arousal to address this possibility.
Galasinska and Szymkow report that their study successfully repeated previous evidence showing that women show greater creativity during the ovulation phase. These findings are in line with Miller’s suggestion that creativity is a sexually selected trait and a fitness indicator. They note that creative originality reflects an “unusualness and novelty” that is likely to attract the attention of potential peers.
The study, “The more fertile, the more creative: changes in women’s creative potential over the ovulatory cycle”, was written by Katarzyna Galasinska and Aleksandra Szymkow.