Monday, December 06, 2010

Avoiding Dad

Ovulating daughters do that so they don't get pregnant with low-quality fetuses. Didn't you know?

This is you daily dose of Evo-Psycho research:

Women avoid talking to their fathers when they are at their most fertile, a new study has revealed.

Previous studies have shown that when women are in their most fertile phase they become more attracted to certain qualities such as manly faces, masculine voices and competitive abilities.

Now a study by University of Miami (UM) psychologist Debra Lieberman and her colleagues offers new insight into female sexuality by showing that women also avoid certain traits when they are fertile.

Women stay away from male relatives when they are most fertile for evolutionary reasons, explains Lieberman who is assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at UM and the study's lead author.

She said: 'Evolutionary biologists have found that females in other species avoid social interactions with male kin during periods of high fertility.

'The behaviour has long been explained as a means of avoiding inbreeding and the negative consequences associated with it.

'But until we conducted our study, nobody knew whether a similar pattern occurred in women.
Isn't it fascinating? Somehow I would have thought that a behavior on this scale would be part of our cultural memory, that there would be jokes about it, that everyone would know about it. But it's like the studies mentioned at the beginning of that quote: Not actually studied in the real-world but with university students using something like drawings of male faces. Or in this case, cell phone records:

For the study, the researchers examined the mobile phone records of 48 women in their reproductive years.

They noted the date and duration of all calls with their fathers and separately, their mothers over the course of one billing period.

They then identified the span of days comprising each woman's high and low fertility days within that billing period.

Martie Haselton, a UCLA associate professor, said: 'Women call their dads less frequently on these high-fertility days and they hang up with them sooner if their dads initiate a call.'

Women were about half as likely to call their fathers during the high fertility days of their cycle as they were to do so during low fertility days.
Wow. You can get pregnant through a cell phone conversation?

Yes, I know that's a silly argument from me. But if this avoidance behavior is so ingrained that it would affect even telephone discussions of daughters living apart from their fathers, then surely we should have spotted it in real life interactions, don't you think?

I haven't looked at the actual study which I should do, of course. But the sample size is pretty small and I wonder if a few outliers might be running the results. I also wonder if the studied cell phone records were from the past, before the study began, or after the subjects were asked about their menstrual cycles and if those subjects knew their phone calls would be studied.

Because if the latter, I'd think that the question about the menstrual cycles would trigger certain type of behavior in the study subjects. Given the general knowledge of all these ovulation studies, had I been in that study I certainly would NOT have talked to my dad during my fertile periods!!! What with women desiring sex then and so on and suddenly insisting on competitive men!!!

No way of knowing without reading the study, naturally. But humans do have something pretty strong in place of such avoidance behaviors by females, and that is the incest taboo. That works pretty well even when the dad and the daughter are in the same house, you know. Not always, but pretty well.