Could your menstrual cycle determine how competitive you are during a pub quiz, marathon or even that all important job interview?
Thomas Buser, Economics Professor from the University of Amsterdam, believes so. Buser’s research has proven that the menstrual cycle impacts competitiveness and as a result affects labour market decisions. His female only lab experiment concentrated on the fluctuation of progesterone and oestrogen throughout the month.
Oestrogen and progesterone
Buser’s participants were first asked what menstrual stage they were at according to . These are: menstrual, follicular, ovulatory, luteal and premenstrual. During the menstrual and follicular phases, the secretion of progesterone is extremely low. This rises during the ovulatory phase, fluctuates steeply during the luteal phase and drops during the premenstrual phase. Oestrogen secretion is highest during the ovulatory stage, relatively high during the luteal but falls during the menstrual and premenstrual stages. The participants were divided into groups according to their differing hormone levels.
They then solved a series of reward based arithmetic problems; first under a piece rate where each member of the group is rewarded equally with a low sum and then under competitive conditions where only the highest performing member was rewarded with a larger sum. They then chose the nature of their third round from these two variants. It was found that those at the luteal stage, when both hormone levels are high, were much less likely to opt to enter into the competition driven conditions than their more competitive counterparts who were at the premenstrual stage.
Individual differences such as a competitive outlook are increasingly shown to determine the outcome of tournament style job interviews and promotions. Buser’s findings could indeed have social implications for how we address women’s progression within the workplace.