Dopamine, context dependence and attribution: Menstrual cycle influences on behavior.
Impelen, B. van
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During the menstrual cycle dopamine levels increase and decrease. Fertile women have high levels of dopamine and show a relative delay in responding towards less dominant stimuli. Because the change to a fertile phase is a very important feature from an evolutionary perspective, we propose there must be a potential beneficial process in the brain which also causes this symptom. Women reap rewards when be able to focus on specific male traits in the fertile phase. We therefore assume that this focus on important stimuli might be higher in women in their fertile phase compared to women in their non-fertile phase. To test the idea of women being more persistent on dominant stimuli, negating more peripheral stimuli, we conducted two studies. One study used an abstract measure for cognitive focus on the dominant target, but it did not show any results. The other study showed that naturally cycling women showed more dispositional attribution during the fertile phase in contrast to contextual attributions, but the effect was reversed in women using hormonal contraceptives. Nevertheless, these results could be interpreted according to the model that implies the effect on the brain shows an U-shaped curve. In this case that would be low and high dopamine levels causing more dispositional attribution, while the intermediate levels of dopamine cause less dispositional attribution.