In the movie The Devil Wears Prada, the ruthless magazine editor Miranda Priestly - played by Meryl Streep - is the epitome of the nightmare boss. She consistently disregards the welfare of others to get what she wants. Now, new research suggests there is a Miranda Priestly in all women at a specific time of the month - during ovulation.
A study, from the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management, suggests that the ovulatory cycle subconsciously changes women's behavior, prompting them to outdo other women.
To reach their findings, published in the Journal of Marketing Research, the researchers conducted a series of three economic experiments on women.
One experiment involved what the investigators call a "dictator game." This is an experiment in which each woman receives a set amount of money that she can choose to share with another person.
Ovulating females want a 'higher standing' over other women
The research team, led by Prof. Kristina Durante of the College of Business at UTSA, found that when women were ovulating, they were less willing to share their money with another individual when that person was a woman.
Researchers have found that during ovulation, women are subconsciously meaner to other females and aim to have a "higher standing" over them.
Furthermore, non-ovulating women were willing to share around 50% of their money with other women, while ovulating women were only willing to share about 25%.
Another experiment required women to make certain product choices. Their choices could either increase their individual financial gain or increase their financial gains in relation to other women.
In one example of this experiment, women were asked to indicate whether they would prefer to have a car worth $25,000 while other women received cars worth $40,000 (option A), or have a car worth $20,000 while other women received cars worth $12,000 (option B).
The investigators found that the majority of ovulating women chose option B because they wanted a car that would give them a "higher standing" over other women.
Commenting on this finding, study author Prof. Vladas Griskevicius, of the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management, says:
"What's interesting about this finding is that ovulating women are so concerned about their relative position that they are willing to take less for themselves just so that they could outdo other women."
Women were kinder to men
But what the researchers found really surprising is that ovulating women did not appear to want a higher standing over men - they became kinder to them.
When playing the dictator game, non-ovulating women shared 45% of their money with men, while ovulating women were willing to share 60% of their money with men.
"These findings are unlike anything we have ever seen in the dictator game. You just don't see people giving away more than half of their money," says Prof. Durante.
Medical News Today recently reported on a study from the University of California, Los Angeles, suggesting that women are more attracted to masculine mates during ovulation - a finding that has been supported by previous research from Prof. Durante and colleagues.
Prof. Durante says it is possible that ovulating women were giving away more of their money to men as a way of flirting.
The study authors conclude that their findings could have important implications for consumers, researchers and marketers:
"The study of how hormones affect marketing phenomena has important implications, not only for research and application, but also for linking theory and research in marketing with theory and research in biology, animal behavior, and evolutionary psychology."