I want that and maybe this…and I NEED that!!!

Calling all binge-shoppers and serial daters,

Ever wonder why we (women) are so impulsive when it comes to shopping, sex, dating, and eating? Or ever wonder why our male counterparts seem to have it all under control? Well it may have to do with our menstrual cycles. New research conducted by Karen J. Pine and Ben Fletcher (2010) of the UK found that women’s spending behavior is menstrual-cycle sensitive.

They conducted a survey on 443 females, 18–50 years of age, who were told to report their spending in the previous seven days and their menstrual-cycle phase, follicular, mid-cycle or luteal. They reported that women in the luteal phase (weeks between ovulation and menstruation) were significantly less controlled and more impulsive than women earlier in their cycle. There was also a significant correlation among over-spending, lack of control and buyers’ remorse with day of cycle, suggesting that impulsive and excessive monetary behavior in women may be due to the adverse impact of ovarian hormones upon self-regulation.

However, there is absolutely no mention of our impulsive friend, Dopamine. Which we should all know by now, is a neurotransmitter that is enhanced (especially in combination with drugs) during reward and is involved in cognitive and tactile learning. Could this be an underlying factor? Maybe dopamine release is more substantial during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle?

Find the articles using the following links:

Rewards and the Menstrual Cycle – PloS Blogs or the full empirical paper

Dopamine Determines Impulsive Behavior – Scientific American

7 thoughts on “I want that and maybe this…and I NEED that!!!

  1. I wonder how this would change as a growing amount of young women and college students are going on the pill….what sorts of things would lead to this sort of impulsive behavior if hormonal levels remain at sort of a baseline? Do Tory’s questions about Dopamine now come more into play??


  2. Very interesting. I know a lot of friends who go through phases of impulsive online shopping — perhaps they should see if this is why!


  3. It’s seriously unfortunate that in a lot of male vs female gender battles, ladies typically get the more complex and often less beneficial end of the stick. Maybe I’m a little biased. I think Alessandra brings a great point to the table: what happens with hormone regulation? And, as Tory mentioned, dopamine is the big piece of the puzzle. Given our most recent Sapolsky reading, I wonder how hormones interact with the volume of dopamine released from the ventral tegmentum area, and if that has anything to do with the timing of the release as well.


  4. I definitely think you are on to something with dopamine. Within the first sentence of your post, I was thinking of dopamine and reward circuitry. I wonder if there is some sort of interaction between the reward circuitry and what is going on from the menstruation side.


  5. I am also intrigued by the possible relationship between dopamine and the menstrual cycle. I wonder if the experiment included menopausal and post-menapausal women to see if they showed no change in spending habits throughout the month or if they followed the same patterns as those women in the menstrual cycle.


  6. This post was very interesting and I will definitely try to be more aware of this in my own life! I was wondering whether there could be any evolutionary explanations to why women in the luteal phase are significantly less controlled and more impulsive. It was seem that if women are less controlled and are more likely to have sex during this time, they may reproduce more than women who are not as impulsive and thus pass down their genes. Therefore this impulsiveness characteristic would be passed down to their offspring and thus more of the population.


  7. I definitely think that the relationship between dopamine and the menstrual cycle could explain a lot. However, I would like to call into question the idea that women are “impulsive when it comes to shopping, sex, dating, and eating,” while “our male counterparts seem to have it all under control.” I can think of plenty of cases in which men seem to have less control than women in all four of these categories. While this behavior in men may not be cyclic in the same way, I think it’s important to note the stereotype that’s underlying this idea.


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