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posted by Fnord666 on Thursday April 20, @02:56AM   Printer-friendly
from the to-sync-or-not-to-sync dept.

A team of researchers made up of the group behind the fertility app Clue and a group at Oxford University have tested the popularly held notion that when women live or work in close proximity for a span of time, they find their menstrual cycles begin to sync with one another. But as researchers note in their article on the Clue website, such notions appear to be completely false.

It is a commonly held notion that women who live or work together, or just spend a lot of time together, find their menstrual cycles syncing. There was even a study done in 1971 by Harvard researcher Martha McClintock tracking the menstrual cycles of female colleges students sharing a dorm. But, as the researchers with this new effort note, no other studies have found it to be true, and McClintock's work has been discredited. But sill the myth persists. To perhaps put an end to the debate, the researchers conducted a test trial with women who use the Clue app—1500 women responded to their request for assistance in a trial and out of those, 360 pairs of women were selected for inclusion. Each were in a close relationship with another woman over an extended period of time. Because the app helps women track and share their period information, the data was already available; all that was needed was for the users to share it with the researchers.

The researchers looked back three menstrual cycles for each of the pairs to see if any alignment was occurring and report that 273 of them actually had cycles that diverged—just 79 were seen to converge. They note that women who were living together were no more aligned than the other pairs. This, they insist, is further proof that the entire idea is a myth with no basis in reality.


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  • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20, @03:35AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20, @03:35AM (#496677)

    Dang, this is a stupid piece.

    • (Score: 0, Offtopic) by Ethanol-fueled on Thursday April 20, @04:06AM

      by Ethanol-fueled (2792) Subscriber Badge on Thursday April 20, @04:06AM (#496682) Homepage Journal

      It disproves the stereotype that womens' cycles sync together, but reinforces the stereotype that women are bitchy without justification and can't work together without pulling each others' hair out.

  • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20, @04:15AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20, @04:15AM (#496684)

    I read ya.

  • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20, @04:28AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20, @04:28AM (#496687)

    ...it's OK to not climax at the same time as your partner.

  • (Score: 4, Touché) by Azuma Hazuki on Thursday April 20, @04:53AM (14 children)

    by Azuma Hazuki (5086) on Thursday April 20, @04:53AM (#496694)

    Only 4 comments so far and they're all "hurr hurr I don't get female anatomy." We're not that damn mysterious, okay? Don't believe what the media says; just read some biology textbooks. And for the record, yeah, the synchronization thing is bullshit. In all the time I've been with either previous or current lovers we never synched up.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20, @04:59AM (8 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20, @04:59AM (#496698)

      There should be a dating app for women with synchronous cycles to date each other.

      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday April 20, @05:07AM

        by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Thursday April 20, @05:07AM (#496702) Journal

        I can imagine highly targeted advertising for users of that #app.

        --
        [SIG] 04/14/2017: Soylent Upgrade v13 [soylentnews.org]
      • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Azuma Hazuki on Thursday April 20, @05:08AM (6 children)

        by Azuma Hazuki (5086) on Thursday April 20, @05:08AM (#496703)

        Oh gods, no, no, no. When my sister and I overlapped back in the day we'd fight like cats in a sack. Dating is dramatic enough without the conjunction of the red tides, and that's keeping in mind mine are luckily very light and usually don't even cramp all that much. Hers, now, I have to wonder if she has undiagnosed PCOS or something...

        • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20, @05:54AM (3 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20, @05:54AM (#496711)

          So if someone were to invent a method to induce synchronicity in a large enough population, all women could be made to kill each other at once! Now this sounds like a plan worth researching.

          • (Score: 2, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20, @06:13AM (1 child)

            by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20, @06:13AM (#496716)

            Clearly you haven't thought this through.. at all.

            • (Score: 2) by Azuma Hazuki on Thursday April 20, @05:57PM

              by Azuma Hazuki (5086) on Thursday April 20, @05:57PM (#496967)

              Oh, I dunno, maybe he's one of those gay dudes who hates women. I've met a few. It's...baffling.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 21, @01:44PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 21, @01:44PM (#497386)

            If someone would have though about this early enough, your post wouldn't be here to annoy us...

        • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Thursday April 20, @01:15PM (1 child)

          by maxwell demon (1608) Subscriber Badge on Thursday April 20, @01:15PM (#496831) Journal

          Well, then the same technology could be used to find partners with maximally-out-of-sync cycles.

          --
          The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
          • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Thursday April 20, @05:57PM

            by bob_super (1357) on Thursday April 20, @05:57PM (#496968)

            The main benefit of simultaneous is how that leaves more time for fun.
            Max out-of-sync would be perfect for polyamorous lesbians, though. Always someone available to play.

    • (Score: 2) by Rivenaleem on Thursday April 20, @08:12AM

      by Rivenaleem (3400) on Thursday April 20, @08:12AM (#496755)

      Are you telling me the Menstrual cycle isn't linked to the phases of the moon!? All those fantasy novels that called it "The Moon Flow" were lying to me! How dare you try to break my illusion that women are delicate mysterious creatures who are inherently linked to each other through the natural cycles of nature.

    • (Score: 2) by fraxinus-tree on Thursday April 20, @10:17AM (1 child)

      by fraxinus-tree (5590) on Thursday April 20, @10:17AM (#496777)

      Well, I understand female anatomy a lot better than most women do. I also did read a lot of biology textbooks. The synchronization thing is pretty real from my own experience. I know at least two women who did it, creating a minor inconvenience for me for about a year. Even being pretty different beforehand. It just does not happen most of the time. Then again, most women have near-28 day cycle so one can perceive a sync when there is no one just by sampling a short enough period.

      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20, @10:40PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20, @10:40PM (#497097)

        Then again, most women have near-28 day cycle so one can perceive a sync when there is no one just by sampling a short enough period.

        You had me there.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20, @06:04PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20, @06:04PM (#496970)

      Every presentation about synchronization in complex systems starts with three typical examples:

      1. The synchronized blinking of fireflies [smokymountains.com].
      2. People in a theater randomly clapping their hands eventually synchronize [sciencedaily.com].
      3. The (now debunked) synchronization of menstrual cycles.

      When I mentioned these to my girlfriend she said that was not true. She was sharing an apartment with other girls for a long time and never saw any syncing in their cycles. I said something like "but this is science!" and we had a long disagreement about that.

      Now I know that I've been all wrong! Today I will come home and apologize with some flowers :)

      • (Score: 2) by driverless on Friday April 21, @04:00AM

        by driverless (4770) on Friday April 21, @04:00AM (#497221)

        The (now debunked) synchronization of menstrual cycles.

        It's not debunked now, it's been debunked for quite some time. I've seen it used in statistics texts as examples of how not to do statistics, alongside things like the Hite study on female sexuality and the 1936 election (mis-)prediction. So a better summary would be "the recently widely publicised information that's been known for some time".

        I'm just having this slightly disturbing image of how Mythbusters would have handled this issue...

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20, @07:05AM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20, @07:05AM (#496725)

    Anyone that believes that what? pheromones or whatever magic makes women sync may as well believe in the invisible hand of the market or just god because it is all pure magic and you where dumb to even think that it could be true

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by butthurt on Thursday April 20, @10:34AM (2 children)

      by butthurt (6141) on Thursday April 20, @10:34AM (#496785) Journal

      Which part of the idea do you find silly?

      - we can sense the odour of other people's bodies
      - our bodies can respond to others' odours
      - this can happen unconsciously
      - we don't understand it fully

      Oh, you did say it's the whole idea. Effects that are somewhat similar have been studied and, supposedly, observed (Wikipedia has citations for these):

      In women, the sense of olfaction is strongest around the time of ovulation, significantly stronger than during other phases of the menstrual cycle and also stronger than the sense in males.

      [...]

      Studies have suggested that people might be using odor cues associated with the immune system to select mates. [...] lesbian women were not as responsive to male identified odors, while their response to female cues was similar to heterosexual males.

      -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_odor#Humans [wikipedia.org]

      Asking scientists to refrain from studying phenomena that are incompletely understood is tantamount to calling for an end to science. Of course you didn't quite say that.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20, @10:42AM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20, @10:42AM (#496788)

        I agree we should just believe in stuff without evidence.
          up until I was about 15 saw auras around everything, I choose to believe that I had a magical ability to sense the true nature of chairs, not that there was something funny with my brain that led to sever depression and panic attacks, no it is because I magically lost the ability to sense the true nature of chair, presumably because I was dirty and had sex.

        • (Score: 1) by butthurt on Thursday April 20, @01:22PM

          by butthurt (6141) on Thursday April 20, @01:22PM (#496835) Journal

          > I agree we should just believe in stuff without evidence.

          The original poster was addressing people who "[had thought] that it could be true" which isn't the same.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by rleigh on Thursday April 20, @07:27AM (5 children)

    by rleigh (4887) Subscriber Badge on Thursday April 20, @07:27AM (#496733) Homepage

    I don't think the conclusions of this invalidate earlier observations, and I also don't think that "crowdsourcing" data is a substitute for a controlled scientific experiment.

    Think about why the process is thought to happen. Hormones such as œstrogen, progesterone and testosterone are able to diffuse out of the body, and potentially affect others in close proximity. Consider the factors which might affect an individual:

    - proximity to sources
    - duration of contact
    - number of sources
    - external influences
    - time of observation period

    The original study was in a college dorm. This study was mainly couples and households. These are two very different situations. In the college or nunnery environment you have close, fairly persistent contact with a large quantity of other people, and the group is somewhat insular--the makeup of the group might be essentially fixed for a year or more. In this study, you have self-selected couples and small groups, which may be in less frequent contact and smaller in number--are they together all day, every day? Given that the effect comes down to the physical concentration of freely diffusing hormones, it may not be of a sufficiently high concentration to exert a noticeable effect during the observation period, which was "no less than three cycles", i.e. not very long. External influences includes changes in the group makeup, and also external hormone sources. Maybe they weren't sufficiently isolated from the general population or members or associates of the group were on drugs or oral or other contraceptives which perturbed the effect, particularly if it's very subtle.

    If they want a definitive answer, then I think they need to do this under controlled conditions. That would mean creating a group of people with known different cycles and having them live in continuous close proximity for an extended period and with minimal outside contact. Could be done in e.g. college accommodation, nunnery, open prison. The logistics are why it's likely not to have been done before. But I don't think crowdsourcing lots of data can replace that.

    • (Score: 2) by Rivenaleem on Thursday April 20, @08:18AM

      by Rivenaleem (3400) on Thursday April 20, @08:18AM (#496756)

      You forget the other possible sources of hormones, in food and water. It is more likely that the large groups living in closer proximity are eating similar food and definitely drinking the same water, while people who only just work together or just live together may be more likely to eat and drink in different locations. I've always wondered who would sync to who? Whoever produces the most hormones? What if there was an external source that they were all (apparently) independently syncing to?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20, @09:41AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20, @09:41AM (#496768)

      Even having sex can have an influence on the cycle. Tracking women in student dorms... well... sex can happen a lot. Also, some women have very irregular cycles, which requires some tracking during the monitoring stage and corrections in the data afterwards.

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by DBCubix on Thursday April 20, @02:04PM (1 child)

      by DBCubix (553) on Thursday April 20, @02:04PM (#496857)

      Following up on the parent's insights w.r.t. proximity; the other glaring error was that three cycles is a really insufficient time period. Had this paper come across my desk I would have rejected it on the methodology alone.

      • (Score: 1) by Roger Murdock on Friday April 21, @03:02AM

        by Roger Murdock (4897) on Friday April 21, @03:02AM (#497199)

        I think the idea was to see if sync'ing of the cycles had ALREADY occurred, not if it was in the process of occurring. One cycle probably would have been enough.

    • (Score: 2) by driverless on Friday April 21, @04:03AM

      by driverless (4770) on Friday April 21, @04:03AM (#497223)

      See my earlier reply, the original study used a badly flawed methodology. I'll have to dig up the stats text where I read the analysis to provide accurate details, rather than trying to reconstruct them right now from memory.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by kaszz on Thursday April 20, @07:30AM (2 children)

    by kaszz (4211) on Thursday April 20, @07:30AM (#496734) Journal

    The methodology seems wrong. The question should be if two fertile females that had no physical proximity starts to share physical proximity will have their cycles converge either in frequency or phase. If there's a statistical increase in convergence, then there's basis for the claim otherwise not. What has been asked for here is if females already in proximity for a unknown time has similar cycles. Other environmental factors may bias that severely as weather, food, housing, genetic factors, phenotype, work schedule etc. If for example there's a gene that enables some but not the majority of females to sync cycles then this study would miss it.

    Do again, do it right.

    • (Score: 2) by tfried on Thursday April 20, @07:23PM (1 child)

      by tfried (5534) on Thursday April 20, @07:23PM (#497015)

      Well, nothing wrong with the methodology, in principle. You'd expect cycles to be randomly in sync any given sample of the general population, and you'd look into whether that frequency is any higher in the chosen "close" sample. So the question is as simple as this: is 79 "convergences" out of 352 cases any higher than the expected base rate of random convergences? Seems to depend on exactly what is scored as a convergence. Too bad I can't have that without reading TFA, so I'll just guess and say that one in 4.45 does look like it's above chance level, but not exactly by an impressive amount...

      • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Thursday April 20, @10:00PM

        by kaszz (4211) on Thursday April 20, @10:00PM (#497085) Journal

        I think what they missed completely is how strongly the cycles change when a environmental change occurs. Say that only 5% of women has a susceptibility that enables them to sync the cycle. Using a static comparison will have this drown in the properties of the majority. Now if one starts with unaffected persons and then change the proximity variable. This should show up clearly. Most will not be affected but those that are will go way above the noise floor.

  • (Score: 2) by Gaaark on Thursday April 20, @03:37PM

    by Gaaark (41) Subscriber Badge on Thursday April 20, @03:37PM (#496894) Homepage Journal

    Don't tell Roy and Moss...

    http://www.cafepress.com/theitcrowd1?aid=113271018 [cafepress.com]

    --
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