Human Ethology Bulletin, Volume 31, No 1, 60-73, published March 30, 2016
In the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, immune responses decrease under the influence of progesterone. This immunosuppression facilitates embryo implantation and maintenance of pregnancy, but at the same time it leads to a greater vulnerability to diseases. The aim of this study was to investigate whether the prophylactic compensatory behaviours, which could decrease the probability of disease, were more expressed in the luteal phase. To this end, disgust sensitivity and recognition of disgusted facial expressions were assessed. The participants had to rate how dangerous and disgusting they found the neutral images and those related to contagion and contamination. Speed and accuracy of labelling facial expressions of disgust and other basic emotions were also measured. The data of N=40 participants were analysed, which were previously collected two times, first during their early follicular and then during luteal phases of the cycle. The compensatory prophylaxis hypothesis was not confirmed: no differences in disgust and danger ratings were observed. The facial expression of disgust was not recognized more quickly and accurately during the luteal phase. However, in line with other studies that indicate changes in social cognition across the menstrual cycle, it was found that basic emotions are recognized more accurately in the early follicular phase compared to the mid-luteal phase.
Keywords: Menstrual cycle, vulnerability to disease, disgust sensitivity, pathogens, recognition of facial expressions.