This shouldn’t be all that much of a surprise to those of us who subscribe to the Darwinian theory of the War Between the Sexes. Taking the contraceptive pill blurs women’s ability to read subtle emotional clues.
No, not because being infertile by chemical agency dulls the mind, but because being fertile sharpens.
Taking the pill makes women less able to read emotions in other people, according to new research. The study found that the oral contraceptive may be blurring social judgement when it comes to discerning more subtle facial expressions. Ninety-five women were challenged to look at black and white photographs of the eye region and select the best of four possible emotional labels that described the expression as quickly as possible. Previous research has indicated that women on the pill are equally able to recognise more obvious expressions such as happiness or fear compared to those not on the contraceptive.
Consider what is necessary for any and all humans to understand from those around them. We are, after all, social creatures, we use herd warnings of danger to alert and so on. So, the state of fertility isn’t something that is going to affect – or, perhaps, there’s no merit in it doing so – the ability to read such.
Now move on to the biggest investment that any woman ever makes, the decision who to have children with. Think of this not as the woke and snowflakes we are today but of those millions of years that got us here. A heightened ability to read the subtle emotions of those vying to be that sperm provider – or, perhaps, those who might be likely to be more than just that sort of provider – would be useful.
Fertility is at least associated with if not entirely caused by a hormonal cycle. A woman won’t be fertile without the hormones although there are reasons why she might not be with it. The contraceptive pill operates by disrupting that cycle.
Note that, as ever with evolution, there’s no purpose here. We’ve made the assumption that such acuity will increase reproductive success through increasing the survivability of children. That it persists is just that we’re descended from those who had that greater acuity.
This is also something that can be tested. Try the same experiment upon those who are not on the pill, who do have the cycles, but who are infertile for other reasons. Say, the tube-tied.
Worth noting that we humans are in fact very good at reading these rather subtle signs. A fun piece of research was that strippers gained better tips when fertile, lesser when menstruating. And those on the pill saw no variation over the cycle. Men were picking up on those subtle signs – even though humans do have concealed ovulation. That is, there is a war between the sexes going on. When is a woman fertile and who does she grant her favours to when she is? Both sides are very good at picking up the most subtle clues about this – again, simply because we’re descended from those who were.
Something that disrupts that cycle, as with the pill, it’s not a great surprise that it blunts such acuity.