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Women prefer masculine men, but only during ovulation, according to a new study

In an article on CBS News on Friday, a new study shows that heterosexual women might prefer masculine men -- but only when they are ovulating.

The study, which will be published in Psychological Bulletin on Feb. 24, revealed that women are most attracted to masculine men during this time frame, but they don’t really see them as long-term partners.

"Women sometimes get a bad rap for being fickle, but the changes they experience are not arbitrary," senior author Martie Haselton, a UCLA professor of psychology and communication studies, said in a press release. "Women experience intricately patterned preference shifts even though they might not serve any function in the present."

Whether women's mate preferences shift at high fertility has been a source of debate since the late 1990s, when the first scholarly studies to hint at such a change appeared. Since then, several papers have failed to replicate the early studies' results, casting doubt on the hypothesis.

Haselton and Kelly Gildersleeve, a UCLA doctoral candidate in psychology and the study's lead author, spent three years attempting to resolve the controversy. They solicited raw data from dozens of scholars who have conducted research on the topic and then translated the data from 50 studies into the same mathematical format so that the findings could be statistically analyzed together.

Some research the scientists used showed that women who sniffed shirts worn by men who had different body and facial symmetry preferred more symmetrical men when they were ovulating during their menstrual cycle. Facial symmetry has long been associated with attractiveness in research.

Deeper voices, which may reflect more testosterone and masculinity, have also been shown to be more attractive for women.

Before the development of modern medicine, sanitation and nutrition, child and infant mortality rates were extremely high. The researchers hypothesize that the mate preference shift may demonstrate an "evolutionary adaptation."

In other words, female ancestors were attracted to "stronger" men because this may have ensured the strength and survival of offspring.

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Emily Sutherlin is also the Pregnancy Examiner.

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