Efficiency in typical 'male' and typical 'female' tasks during menstrual cycle  

Šimić N., Manenica I., Pupić-bakrač A., Peričić M.
First author's affiliation: University of Zadar, Zadar, Croatia

Various studies have shown the best efficiency in typical 'female' tasks during late follicular phase (Hassman et al., 2000) or in the midluteal phase (Hampson, 1990), and in typical 'male' tasks during menstrual phase. The top efficiency in the first case corresponded to the highest level of estrogen and progesterone, while in the latter, these levels were at the lowest. The aim of this investigation was to try to associate efficiency in typical male and typical female tasks to hormone levels during the menstrual cycle. Twenty female students (18 to 21 years), with regular menstrual cycle of 28 days, took part in this study. As typical female task used was the O' Connor dexterimeter, and male task was a mental rotation task. Subjects performed the tasks during menstrual, late follicular and midluteal phase. Spielberger’s State Anxiety Questionnaire was administered before the tasks in each phase. After completion of the task, the subjects had to assess its difficulty on Borg's scale. The results showed the best performance in both tasks in the midluteal phase, which is characterised by a high level of estrogen and progesterone. The differences between the results in the late follicular and midluteal phase suggest that estrogen level was responsible for differences in the performance. The progesterone level seemed to be responsible for a lower anxiety in the midluteal phase, which may have indirectly improved the efficiency in mental rotation tasks. The anxiety level, together with task difficulty assessments, was the highest in menstrual and the lowest in midluteal phase.