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Continued: New study says that ovulating women may buy more status goods

  • Article by: KIM ODE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: March 22, 2014 - 2:00 AM

Creepy? Exploitative? Brilliant? Could be a little of each, but from Griskevicius’ perspective, research is research.

“Imagine if you invent a knife,” he said. “You say, ‘Wow, this is a knife. Wow, you could cut rope with it and build things with it.’ Then someone else picks it up and stabs you.

“You can say, ‘No, this isn’t a weapon. This is a tool!’ But you can’t predict who will take advantage over us.”

Could this really happen?

In some ways, it’s already happening. Many stores track our purchases. Search for a particular car on your computer and suddenly ads for Toyota appear on the margin.

Griskevicius said it would behoove all of us to become more aware of the marketing forces in our lives. In this case, there is one other defense.

Study participants were filtered to eliminate women taking hormonal contraception or prescription drugs. Contraception disrupts hormones, thus erasing any behavioral effects around normal ovulation, he said, short-circuiting such status-laden sales pitches.

And, while the study may seem to have a high “What the?” factor, Griskevicius said that it rights some perennial wrongs.

“If you track the research history of how hormones influence behavior, we think about testosterone, and most of that research completely ignored women,” he said. “After decades of research showing how hormones influence men’s behavior, this is like, hey, wait a second, they influence women’s behavior, too.”

OK, given these findings, is there any upside here? Maybe, but it involves being creepy, exploitative and brilliant.

In one of the exercises, researchers gave a woman $5 to divide between herself and another person. Past research has shown that people tend to offer more money to women than to men.

However, the study found that when women were ovulating, they gave smaller amounts of money to other women — and more to men.

So if you have a female boss, and can figure out when she ovulates, that could — depending on your gender — determine when to ask for a raise.

The trick, of course, is figuring out her cycle.

Kim Ode • 612-673-7185

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