Cognitive Performance and the Menstrual Cycle

Part of the Contributions to Psychology and Medicine book series (CONTRIBUTIONS)


The headline on the New York Times declared: “Female sex hormone is tied to ability to perform tasks” (“Female sex hormone...,” 1988). It was on the front page where everyone glancing at a newsstand copy would see it—right next to a photograph of the President of the United States. My own local newspaper announced “Sex hormones, women’s thinking linked in study” (“Sex hormones...,” 1988). The sex hormones in question were those that fluctuate during the menstrual cycle, and the conclusion was based upon a study of women’s performance across the menstrual cycle. Previous reviews had indicated that the menstrual cycle has virtually no impact on objectively measured cognitive performance (Sommer, 1982a, 1983), a conclusion similar to that of Hollingworth’s dissertation in 1914, of Lough’s dissertation in 1937, and of Seward’s 1944 review article in Psychological Bulletin. Nevertheless, at the end of 1988, it was news. This readiness to connect intellectual impairment with the menstrual cycle underscores the point made by John Richardson toward the end of Chapter 1, that there is a persistent and widespread popular belief in the notion of paramenstrual cognitive debilitation.


Menstrual Cycle Choice Reaction Time Phase Effect Menstrual Cycle Phase Premenstrual Symptom 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alagna, S., & Hamilton, J.A. (1986). Social stimulus perception and self-evaluation: Effect of menstrual cycle phase. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 10, 327–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Altemus, M., Wexler, B.E., & Boulis, N. (1989). Changes in perceptual asymmetry with the menstrual cycle. Neuropsychologia, 17, 233–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Altenhaus, A.L. (1978). The effect of expectancy for change on performance during the menstrual cycle. Dissertation Abstracts International, 39, 968B.Google Scholar
  4. Asso, D. (1985–1986). Psychology degree examinations and the premenstrual phase of the menstrual cycle. Women and. Health, 10, 91–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Asso, D., & Braier, J.R. (1982). Changes with the menstrual cycle in psychophysiological and self-report measures of activation. Biological Psychology, 15, 95–107.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baisden, A.G., & Gibson, R.S. (1975). Effects of the menstrual cycle on the performance of complex perceptual-psychomotor tasks. In Proceedings of the Human Factors Society 19th annual meeting, (pp. 415–417), Santa Monica, CA.Google Scholar
  7. Barratt, C.L.R., Cooke, S., Chouhan, M., & Cooke, I.D. (1989). A prospective randomized controlled trial comparing urinary luteinizing hormone dipsticks and bssal body temperature charts with time donor insemination. Fertility and Sterility, 52, 394–397.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Bauman, J.E. (1981). Basal body temperature: Unreliable method of ovulation detection. Fertility and Sterility, 36, 729–733.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Becker, D., Creutzfeldt, O.D., Schwibbe, M., & Wuttke, W. (1982). Changes in physiological, EEG and psychological parameters in women during the spontaneous menstrual cycle and following oral contraceptives. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 7, 75–90.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bernstein, B.E. (1977). Effect of menstruation on academic performance among college women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 6, 289–296.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Broverman, D., Vogel, W., Klaiber, E.L., Majcher, D., Shea, D., & Paul, V. (1981). Changes in cognitive task performance across the menstrual cycle. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 95, 646–654.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brown, I.S., Forand, A.W., & Payne, R.B. (1984). Hormonal influences on psychomotor reminiscence. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 58, 383–389.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Colley, A.M., & Beech, J.R. (Eds.) (1989). Acquisition and performance of cognitive skills. Chichester, England: Wiley.Google Scholar
  14. Cooper, J.A., Blue, J.H., & Ross, S. (1983). Automatization and perceptual restructuring performance across the menstrual cycle. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 21, 179–182.Google Scholar
  15. Cormack, M., & Sheldrake, P. (1974). Menstrual cycle variations in cognitive ability: A preliminary report. International Journal of Chronobiology, 2, 53–55.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Curry, R.N. (1983). The effect of the reproductive cycle on the perception of social interactions. Dissertation Abstracts International, 43, 3402B.Google Scholar
  17. Dalton, K. (1960a). Effect of menstruation on schoolgirls’ weekly work. British Medical Journal, 1, 326–328.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dalton, K. (1960b). Menstruation and accidents. British Medical Journal, 2, 1425–1426.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dalton, K. (1961). Menstruation and crime. British Medical Journal, 2, 1752–1753.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dalton, K. (1966). The influence of a mother’s menstruation on her child. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 59, 1014–1016.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Dalton, K. (1968). Menstruation and examinations. Lancet, 2, 1386–1388.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. d’Orban, P.T., & Dalton, J. (1980). Violent crime and the menstrual cycle. Psychological Medicine, 10, 353–359.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Dor-Shav, N.K. (1976). In search of pre-menstrual tension: Note on sex differences in psychological differentiations as a function of cyclical physiological changes. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 42, 1139–1142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Female sex hormone is tied to ability to perform tasks. (1988, November 18). New York Times, p. 1.Google Scholar
  25. Fradkin, B., & Firestone, P. (1986). Premenstrual tension, expectancy, and mother-child relations. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 9, 245–249.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Friedman, E., Katcher, A.H., & Brightman, V.J. (1978). A prospective study of the distribution of illness within the menstrual cycle. Motivation and Emotion, 2, 355–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gamberale, F., Strindberg, L., & Wahlberg, I. (1975). Female work capacity during the menstrual cycle: Physiological and psychological reactions. Scandinavian Journal of the Work Environment and Health, 1, 120–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Giannini, A.J., Sorger, L.G., Martin, D.M., & Bates, L. (1988). Impaired reception of nonverbal cues in women with premenstrual tension syndrome. Journal of Psychology, 122, 591–596.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Golub, S. (1976). the effect of premenstrual anxiety and depression on cognitive function. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 34, 99–104.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gordon, H.W., Corbin, E.D., & Lee, P.A. (1986). Changes in specialized cognitive function following changes in hormone levels. Cortex, 22, 399–415.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Graham, E.A. (1980). Cognition as related to menstrual cycle phase and estrogen level. In A.J. Dan, E.A. Graham, & C.P. Beecher (Eds.), The menstrual cycle: Vol. 1. A synthesis of interdisciplinary research (pp. 190–208). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  32. Grinsted, J., Jacobsen, J.D., & Grinsted, L. (1989). Prediction of ovulation. Fertility and Sterility, 52, 388–393.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Hampson, E. (1986, June). Variations in perceptual and motor performance related to phase of the menstrual cycle. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Psychological Association, Toronto.Google Scholar
  34. Hampson, E., & Kimura, D. (1988). Reciprocal effects of hormonal fluctuations on human motor and perceptual skills. Behavioral Neuroscience, 102, 456–459.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Heister, G., Landis, T., Regard, M., Schroeder-Heister, P. (1989). Shift of functional cerebral asymmetry during the menstrual cycle. Neuropsychologia, 27, 871–880.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hines, M. (1982). Prenatal gonadal hormones and sex differences in human behavior. Psychological Bulletin, 92, 56–80.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Ho, H.-Z., Gilger, J.W., & Brink, T.M. (1986). Effects of menstrual cycle on spatial information-processes. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 63, 743–751.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hollingworth, L.S. (1914). Functional periodicity: An experimental study of the mental and motor abilities of women during menstruation. Contributions to Education No. 69. New York: Columbia University, Teachers College.Google Scholar
  39. Hudgens, G.A., Fatkin, L.T., Billingsley, P.A., & Mazurcysk, J. (1988). Hand steadiness: Effects of sex, menstrual phase, oral contraceptives, practice, and handgun weight. Human Factors, 30, 51–60.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Hughes, R.N. (1983). Menstrual cycle influences on perceptual disembedding ability. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 57, 107–110.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hunter, S., Schraer, R., Landers, D.M., Buskirk, E.R., & Harris, D.V. (1979). The effects of total oestrogen concentration and menstrual-cycle phase on reaction time performance. Ergonomics, 22, 263–268.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Hutt, S.J., Frank, G., Mychalkiw, W., & Hughes, M. (1980). Perceptual-motor performance during the menstrual cycle. Hormones and Behavior, 13, 116–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Hyde, J.S. (1981). How large are cognitive gender differences? A meta-analysis using ω and d. American Psychologist, 36, 892–901.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Jensen, B.K. (1982). Menstrual cycle effects on task performance examined in the context of stress research. Acta Psychologica, 50, 159–178.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Kirstein, L., Rosenberg, G., & Smith, H. (1980–1981). Cognitive changes during the menstrual cycle. International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, 10, 339–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Klaiber, E.L., Broverman, D.M., Vogel, W., & Kobayashi, Y. (1974). Rhythms in plasma MAO activity, EEG, and behavior during the menstrual cycle. In M. Ferin, F. Halberg, R.M. Richart, & R.L. VandeWiele (Eds.), Biorhythms and human reproduction (pp. 353–367). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  47. Komnenich, P. (1974). Hormonal influences on verbal behavior in women. Dissertation Abstracts International, 35, 3065B.Google Scholar
  48. Komnenich, P., Lane, D.M., Dickey, R.P., & Stone, S.C. (1978). Gonadal hormones and cognitive performance. Physiological Psychology, 6, 115–120.Google Scholar
  49. Kopell, B., Lunde, D., Clayton, R., & Moos, R. (1969). Variations in some measures of arousal during the menstrual cycle. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 148, 180–187.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Lamson-McBride, E., & Payne, R.B. (1981). Psychomotor reminiscence and the menstrual cycle. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 17, 97–100.Google Scholar
  51. Landauer, A.A. (1974). Choice decision time and the menstrual cycle. Practitioner, 213, 703–706.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Lazarov, S. (1982). The menstrual cycle and cognitive function. Dissertation Abstracts International, 43, 280B.Google Scholar
  53. Linn, M.C., & Petersen, A.C. (1985). Emergence and characterization of gender differences in spatial ability: A meta-analysis. Child Development, 56, 1479–1498.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Liskey, N.E. (1972). Accidents: Rhythmic threat to females. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 4, 1–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Little, B.C., & Zahn, T.P. (1974). Changes in mood and autonomic functioning during the menstrual cycle. Psychophysiology, 11, 579–590.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Lough, O.M. (1937). A psychological study of functional periodicity. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 24, 359–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Maccoby, E.E., & Jacklin, C.G. (1974). The psychology of sex differences. Stanford CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  58. Mayer, C.R. (1982). The menstrual cycle, attitude, and spatial test performance. Dissertation Abstracts International, 43, 1653B.Google Scholar
  59. McCarthy, J.J., & Rockette, H.E. (1986). Prediction of ovulation with basal body temperature. Journal of Reproductive Medicine, 31(8, suppl.), 742–747.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. Montgomery, J.D. (1979). Variations in perception of short time intervals during menstrual cycle. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 49, 940–942.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Moos, R.H. (1968). The development of a menstrual distress questionnaire. Psychosomatic Medicine, 30, 853–867.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. Morton, J.H., Addition, H., Addison, R.G., Hunt, L. & Sullivan, J.J. (1953). A clinical study of premenstrual tension. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 65, 1182–1191.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  63. Munchel, M.E. (1979). The effects of symptom expectations and response styles on cognitive and perceptual-motor performance during the premenstrual phase. Dissertation Abstracts International, 39, 3531B–3532B.Google Scholar
  64. Petersen, A.C. (1976). Physical androgeny and cognitive functioning in adolescence. Developmental Psychology, 12, 524–533.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Quagliarello, J., & Arny, M. (1986). Inaccuracy of basal body temperature charts in predicting urinary luteinizing hormone surges. Fertility and Sterility, 45, 334–337.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  66. Redgrove, J.A. (1971). Menstrual cycles. In W.P. Colquhoun (Ed.), Biological rhythms and human performance (pp. 211–240). London: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  67. Redgrove, J.A. (1987). Applied settings. In M.A. Baker (Ed.), Sex differences in human performance (pp. 171–185). Chichester, England: Wiley.Google Scholar
  68. Richardson, J.T.E. (1988a). Student learning and the menstrual cycle: Myths and realities. Studies in Higher Education, 13, 317–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Richardson, J.T.E. (1988b). Student learning and the menstrual cycle. In M.M. Gruneberg, P.E. Morris & R.W. Sykes (Eds.). Practical aspects of memory—Current research and issues: Vol. 2. Clinical and educational implications (pp. 495–500). Chichester, England: Wiley.Google Scholar
  70. Richardson, J.T.E. (1989). Student learning and the menstrual cycle: Premenstrual symptoms and approaches to studying. Educational Psychology, 9, 215–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Richardson, J.T.E. (1991). Cognition, memory, and the menstrual cycle. Cahiers de Psychologie Cognitive, 11, 3–26.Google Scholar
  72. Rodin, J. (1976). Menstruation, reattribution and competence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 33, 345–353.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Schilling, K.M. (1981). What is a real difference? Content or method in menstrual findings. In P. Komnenich, M. McSweeney, J.A. Noack & N. Elder (Eds.), The menstrual cycle: Volume 2. Research and implications for women’s health (pp. 82–92). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  74. Schuckit, M.A., Daly, V., Herrman, G., & Hineman, S. (1975). Premenstrual symptoms and depression in a university population. Diseases of the Nervous System, 36, 516–517.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  75. Seward, G.H. (1944). Psychological effects of the menstrual cycle on women workers. Psychological Bulletin, 41, 90–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Sex hormones, women’s thinking linked in study. (1988, November 17). Sacramento Bee, p. A12.Google Scholar
  77. Silverman, E.-M., & Zimmer, C.H. (1975). Speech fluency fluctuations during the menstrual cycle. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 18, 202–206.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  78. Silverman, E.-M., & Zimmer, C.H. (1976). Replication of “speech fluency fluctuations during the menstrual cycle.” Perceptual and Motor Skills, 42, 1004–1006.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Slade, P., & Jenner, F.A. (1980). Performance tests in different phases of the menstrual cycle. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 24, 5–8.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Smith, A.J. (1950a). Menstruation and industrial efficiency: I. Absenteeism and activity level. Journal of Applied Psychology, 34, 1–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Smith, A.J. (1950b). Menstruation and industrial efficiency: II. Quality and quantity of production. Journal of Applied Psychology, 34, 148–152.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Snyder, D.B. (1978). The relationship of the menstrual cycle to certain aspects of perceptual cognitive functioning. Dissertation Abstracts International, 39, 962B–963B.Google Scholar
  83. Sommer, B. (1972a). Menstrual cycle changes and intellectual performance. Psychosomatic Medicine, 34, 263–269.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  84. Sommer, B. (1972b, April). Perceptual-motor performance, mood, and the menstrual cycle. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Western Psychological Association, Portland, OR.Google Scholar
  85. Sommer, B. (1982a). Cognitive behavior and the menstrual cycle. In R.C. Friedman (Ed.), Behavior and the menstrual cycle (pp. 101–127). New York: Marcel Dekker.Google Scholar
  86. Sommer, B. (1982b). Menstrual distress. In G. Hongladarom, R. McCorkel, & N.F. Woods (Eds.), The complete book of women’s health (pp. 59–73). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  87. Sommer, B. (1983). How does menstruation affect cognitive competence and psychophysiological response? In S. Golub (Ed.), Women and health: Vol. 8. Lifting the curse of menstruation (pp. 53–90). New York: Haworth Press.Google Scholar
  88. Strauss, B., Schultheiss, M., & Cohen, R. (1983). Autonomic reactivity in the premenstrual phrase. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 22, 1–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Stroop, J.R. (1935). Studies of interference in serial verbal reactions. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 18, 643–660.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Tuch, R. (1975). The relationship between a mother’s menstrual status and her response to illness in her child. Psychosomatic Medicine, 37, 388–394.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  91. Vermesh, J., Kletsky, O.A., Davajan, F., & Israel, R. (1986). Monitoring techniques to predict and detect ovulation. Fertility and Sterility, 47, 259–264.Google Scholar
  92. Waber, D.P. (1977). Sex differences in mental abilities, hemispheric lateralization, and rate of physical growth at adolescence. Developmental Psychology, 13, 29–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Walsh, R.N., Budtz-Olsen, I., Leader, C., & Cummins, R.A. (1981). The menstrual cycle, personality and academic performance. Archives of General Psychiatry, 38, 210–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Wasilewska, E., Swiecka, E., & Bargiel, L.Z. (1980). Urinary catecholamine excretion and plasma dopamine-beta-hydroxylase activity during mental work performed in some periods of the menstrual cycle in women. Acta Physiologica Polonica, 31, 647–651.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  95. Wells, K.C., & Payne, R.B. (1979). Psychomotor reminiscence as a function of gonadal steroid hormone variation. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 14, 197–200.Google Scholar
  96. Wickham, M. (1958). The effects of the menstrual cycle on test performance. British Journal of Psychology, 49, 34–41.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Wuttke, W., Arnold, P., Becker, D., Creutzfeldt, O., Langenstein, S., & Tirsch, W. (1976). Hormonal profiles and variations of the EEG and of performances in psychological tests in women with spontaneous menstrual cycles and under oral contraceptives. In T.M. I til, G. Laudahn, & W.M. Herrmann (Eds.), Psychotropic action of hormones (pp. 169–182). New York: Spectrum.Google Scholar
  98. Zimmerman, E., & Parlee, M.B. (1973). Behavioral changes associated with the menstrual cycle: An experimental investigation. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 3, 335–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 1992

Authors and Affiliations

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations