Pop quiz time: Look at the pictures below and pick the man you find the most attractive in each row. We know, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hard, but focus on physical attraction aloneÃ¢â‚¬”not how much you loved them in that movie or how funny they may be:
Did you pick more men from the left column than you did from the right column? If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re currently on hormonal birth control, your preferences may have been skewed by your pill. Women are more likely to prefer men with less masculine features when theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re taking oral contraceptives, according to a new study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology. If you stop to think about it, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s pretty bigÃ¢â‚¬”it means you may choose to pair off with a different guy than you normally would if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re taking the Pill!
In the first of two experiments, researchers looked at whether or not facial preferences changed after women started taking birth control. An experimental group of 18 women and a control group of 37 women were asked to manipulate images of male and female faces to be the most physically attractive, and then they were asked to complete the same test three months later. At the beginning of the study, none of the women were on birth control. But after the experimental group started taking the Pill, their preferences changed dramatically. Women tended to prefer less masculine men after being on hormonal birth control for a few months, says Robert Burriss, PhD, one of the authors of the study and a research fellow at the University of Northumbria in Newcastle, UK. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We also tested a control group of women who didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t start taking the Pill, and their preferences remained the same, so we can be pretty sure itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the Pill thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s causing this change,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Burriss.
Okay, so the Pill has an impact on which guys youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re more likely to ogle. But does it actually impact your choice in boyfriends? In the second experiment, researchers looked at 85 couples who met while the woman was on birth control and 85 couples who met while the woman wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t on the Pill. The guysÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ photos were given to a group of participants to judge for relative masculinity (they were looking at factors like a defined jaw, a larger lower face width, and eyebrow prominence). Then the researchers made a composite face for each group of men and gave that to participants to judge. The results showed that the partners of women who were not taking birth control were significantly more masculine than the partners of women who were taking birth control. So if you were on the Pill when you met your boyfriend or husband, thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a chance that your attraction to him was skewed by your birth control. Weird, right?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“For over a decade now weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve known that women tend to prefer more masculine men during the fertile phase of their menstrual cycles, around ovulation,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Burriss. You can blame these shifts on your swaying hormone levels, particularly estrogen and progesterone. Ã¢â‚¬Å“But taking the Pill knocks out this natural hormone variation and eliminates the fertile phase,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Burriss. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Not only does this stop a woman from being able to conceive, it also stops her from thinking like we would expect a fertile woman to think.Ã¢â‚¬Â And while they only looked at oral contraceptives, their research suggests that this might apply to other forms of hormonal birth control, tooÃ¢â‚¬”like the ring or the patch.
It may be a little weird to think about, but donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t toss your pill pack just because youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re worried about it altering your preference in guys. Like most side effects of the Pill, these little changes are likely worth all the other health benefits you get. Check out more ways that birth control may affect your body:
How Birth Control Interferes With Your Body
5 Surprising Effects of the Pill
The Best Birth Control For Your Body
The Positives to Being on the Pill
Will I Gain Weight On the Pill?
*images via Shutterstock