PMS Evolved to End Bad Relationships, Says Scientist

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PMS Evolved to End Bad Relationships, Says Scientist

Premenstrual syndrome may have evolved in humans as a means for women to decouple from infertile men in order to better survive as a species.

PMS is something of a sensitive issue, but Professor of Molecular Evolution Michael Gillings was brave enough to put forth the idea that premenstrual syndrome is actually a beneficial evolutionary adaptation. According to Gillings, a woman experiencing PMS symptoms leads to an increased chance of a breakup, and historically, a woman in a "bad" relationship would experience PMS much more than other women. "Bad" isn't the term Gillings used; he calls them infertile relationships - which, from an evolutionary standpoint, are bad.

"In the past, women had many fewer menstrual cycles than women in modern societies, because they did not have control over reproduction and were either pregnant or breastfeeding most of the time," said Gillings.

"Imagine that a woman was pair bonded with a sterile or infertile male. Then, even in the past, they would have had regular cycles. If women in these relationships exhibited PMS and this increased the likelihood of the pair bond dissolving, this would be a huge reproductive advantage.

"This simple phenomenon might explain the frequency of PMS," said Gillings. "There are various lines of evidence from DNA and behavioral studies that confirm this idea."

Of course, while this may have historically been a beneficial adaptation, society has come a long way. In many nations, women now have the freedom to become pregnant on their own terms, making such an adaptation unnecessary.

"Under this view, the prevalence of PMS might result from genes and behaviors that are adaptive in some societies, but are potentially less appropriate in modern cultures," said Gillings.

"Understanding this might help the management of PMS and will help change attitudes, for example, towards cycle-stopping contraception. PMS is a simple and natural behavior that arose as a consequence of our evolutionary past."

What do you think? Do you think PMS could have been an evolutionary adaptation?

Source: Wiley Online Library, via Macquarie University

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Why is it something of a sensitive issue? I've had no trouble talking with ladies about it. May be a cultural thing.
The theory sounds feasable. Evolution is a purely logical process. It isnt a choice, it just is like taking the route of least resistance.

We all know genders are just a social construct! To suggest that physical gender may have something to do with human behavior is preposterous!

I think it's a sensitive topic because it has been and still is tied into gender politics. People use the Angry woman= "Oh you must have PMS" argument as a way of dismissing and belittling the woman regardless of the validity of the claim. On the other side, it can be used as an excuse for bad behavior or even as a type of placebo effect "I am angry because I'm supposed to be angry at this time" Or at least that's what I've seen. I suppose it makes sense from a scientific standpoint, but I don't see how it translates to today. We mate for different reasons and with different partners than in the past and to say "Oh you're just breaking up with me because your PMS is telling you to" would be a dangerous and dumb precedent.

Evolution is awesome and I could definitely see this as a mechanism developing within humans... Consequently I am curious what other emotional defense mechanisms have we developed as a species? We often tend to think of evolution as a physical adaption, but emotional adaptions might be an increasingly important science. This blew my mind just now... I think I'm gonna have to sit back and science for a while until I explain this to myself!

I was going to say yaaaaaaaaaay evo psych but this aparently isn't evo psych

If I've ever expreienced PMS I don't think I've noticed...though I have had tomes gotten depressed leading up to that time of the month

Sgt. Sykes:
We all know genders are just a social construct! To suggest that physical
gender may have something to do with human behavior is preposterous!

can we not? please?

Kuredan:
I think it's a sensitive topic because it has been and still is tied into gender politics. People use the Angry woman= "Oh you must have PMS" argument as a way of dismissing and belittling the woman regardless of the validity of the claim. On the other side, it can be used as an excuse for bad behavior or even as a type of placebo effect "I am angry because I'm supposed to be angry at this time" Or at least that's what I've seen. I suppose it makes sense from a scientific standpoint, but I don't see how it translates to today. We mate for different reasons and with different partners than in the past and to say "Oh you're just breaking up with me because your PMS is telling you to" would be a dangerous and dumb precedent.

I have no issue that htis kind of thing or Evo Psych as a subject....I just find that people use it to justify all kinds of bullshit

I think that is a stretch, to be quite honest. It works under the assumption that it's necessary for PMS to exist to reduce the likelihood of a woman staying with a man who is not producing offspring. Only, it's been shown that sex is not solely for reproduction in humans. Sex is also a means of keeping the bond between a man and a woman strong so they stay together to raise offspring. Women have other impulses as time goes on that strengthen their desire to have a child. PMS need not ever exist when a great many women seem to want to have them anyway. It also seems to work under the assumption that a people in ancient societies always sought to have a huge number of offspring, only evidence shows that prior to 10,000 BCE, the family unit that is the most successful and common is what is commonly known today as the "nuclear family". That is a mother, father, and two offspring.

Also, people seem to be working under the assumption that all traits people have are beneficial for one reason or another. That is completely false. Some traits people just have because that is how it happened. Just because the trait exists does not mean that there was ever an evolutionary advantage to having it.

Note, most women do not experience PMS, and its actually contested if it even exists in the first place. This theory is illogical.

Uhhh, I think PMSing has also ruined a fair few GOOD relationships too, matey.

Hooray for speculative evolutionary psychology! Why go through all the trouble of observing phenomena, devising experiments to gather information, testing them, and then comparing them to the results of other similar experiments when you can just say why stuff happens because "genes did it." Science is so much easier when we get to leave out the science part!

Baresark:
the family unit that is the most successful and common is what is commonly known today as the "nuclear family". That is a mother, father, and two offspring.

Do not forget that not so long ago infant mortality was much, much higher than today.
So you might give birth to seven children, but only two might survive to reproduce.

Huh...that's an impressive stretch there.

Also...that pic...really?

Seems plausible and an interesting speculative consideration in regards to the stereotypical PMS.

To argue PMS does not happen is to argue that chemical reactions in the body do not effect the brain.

FalloutJack:
Uhhh, I think PMSing has also ruined a fair few GOOD relationships too, matey.

Oh, here we go.

OP: That's an incredibly speculative, stand-alone article.

I wouldn't put too much stock in it.

Sgt. Sykes:
We all know genders are just a social construct! To suggest that physical gender may have something to do with human behavior is preposterous!

Oh come on, you sound like the anti-evolution folk who say "if we came from monkeys, then why are there still monkeys!" It's just a complete strawman. The social construct argument says that gender is primarily a construct of society and is not the primary mover TODAY, not that that was always the case or that there is absolutely no relation between gender and other aspects of the person. This is because natural evolutionary processes have given way to social evolutionary processes where your success does not come from facing the elements but from conforming and succeeding at conforming to your own society. Now as we have full control of society as it is a product of us (unlike nature of which we are a product) we can shift it to fit our ideals.

Baresark:
It also seems to work under the assumption that a people in ancient societies always sought to have a huge number of offspring, only evidence shows that prior to 10,000 BCE, the family unit that is the most successful and common is what is commonly known today as the "nuclear family". That is a mother, father, and two offspring.

Is this the case? I do not study anthropology so I am not familiar but from looking at some "primitive" cultures you often see polygamous units and in old civilization (those that came after 10,000 BCE) the most successful did seem to have various concubines and wives (see ancient Israel, Egypt, Mesopotamia, etc.). I honestly have no idea so this is a serious question.

PMS does end bad relationships.

For example- if you're mad at a dude and he suggests it's cause you're on your period- evolution says dump that motherfucker.

Luckily for me, my pill makes periods go bye-bye so I don't have to deal with that crap. Yay for science!

Interesting, the presumption that evolution directs itself towards purposes. Any actual benefit from evolution not related to natural selection is serendipitous at best, my friend. PMS does not exist for this purpose. It does not exist for any purpose. It simply exists.

The theory is rubbish. The sort of fixed monogamous relationship (aka marriage) we think of as the standard isn't something that has been done by all humans throughout history, let alone by our ancestors from far enough back to have an influence on our physical evolution. Heck, a lot of the social traditions we think of as ancient aren't even half a millenium old, let alone the couple of dozen required to see noticeable evolutionary change.

Phasmal:
PMS does end bad relationships.

For example- if you're mad at a dude and he suggests it's cause you're on your period- evolution says dump that motherfucker.

Luckily for me, my pill makes periods go bye-bye so I don't have to deal with that crap. Yay for science!

Evolution doesn't say a thing. Said example female's inability to take an insult and said male's desire to throw it said it.

Rainbow_Dashtruction:
Note, most women do not experience PMS, and its actually contested if it even exists in the first place. This theory is illogical.

Whooo boy, better get writing to the various scientists and previous researchers involved in this study! They've clearly been wasting their time all along!

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/eva.12190/full

Nieroshai:

Phasmal:
PMS does end bad relationships.

For example- if you're mad at a dude and he suggests it's cause you're on your period- evolution says dump that motherfucker.

Luckily for me, my pill makes periods go bye-bye so I don't have to deal with that crap. Yay for science!

Evolution doesn't say a thing. Said example female's inability to take an insult and said male's desire to throw it said it.

Hang on I just got pulled over by the joke police.

I'm gonna seriously start putting my jokes in joke tags. I forgot how the internet is sometimes.

Phasmal:

Nieroshai:

Phasmal:
PMS does end bad relationships.

For example- if you're mad at a dude and he suggests it's cause you're on your period- evolution says dump that motherfucker.

Luckily for me, my pill makes periods go bye-bye so I don't have to deal with that crap. Yay for science!

Evolution doesn't say a thing. Said example female's inability to take an insult and said male's desire to throw it said it.

Hang on I just got pulled over by the joke police.

I'm gonna seriously start putting my jokes in joke tags. I forgot how the internet is sometimes.

As a first-time offender, you are ordered to attend a remedial course on How to Internet. The educational content contains, but is not limited to: pictures of cats, abbreviations, sock puppetry, trolling, Godwin's Law, and the fact that I fornicated with your mother last night.

I'm not an expert on early and prehistory, but I would think that during the time periods where this research might be valid women did not have the social ability to end relationships, infertile or otherwise.

Nieroshai:
Interesting, the presumption that evolution directs itself towards purposes. Any actual benefit from evolution not related to natural selection is serendipitous at best, my friend. PMS does not exist for this purpose. It does not exist for any purpose. It simply exists.

While the evidence supporting this theory is thin at best, it would fall under the purview of natural selection - women dumping an infertile partner in order to hook up with a fertile one have a better chance at producing offspring, and thus securing their continued spot in the gene pool.

Describing it as "it exists for a purpose" is indeed technically wrong, as it'd be "it exists because it bestowed a benefit".

castlewise:
I'm not an expert on early and prehistory, but I would think that during the time periods where this research might be valid women did not have the social ability to end relationships, infertile or otherwise.

There's a good many thousands of years when relationships as such did not really exist, but were mostly two people shagging, and raising the subsequent offspring for the first few years.

And even after that, this theory suggests that it didn't give them greater inclination to end a relationship, just be so annoying that both parties want to end it.

castlewise:
I'm not an expert on early and prehistory, but I would think that during the time periods where this research might be valid women did not have the social ability to end relationships, infertile or otherwise.

I believe the implication is that the man would be repelled by the PMS and end the relationship himself.

Why is it people assume PMS was selected *for* rather than not yet selected *out*?

You could write a similar article on myopia; after all, a gene that keeps you from seeing how butt ugly you are to each other is going to help produce offspring, right?

theluckyjosh:
Why is it people assume PMS was selected *for* rather than not yet selected *out*?

You could write a similar article on myopia; after all, a gene that keeps you from seeing how butt ugly you are to each other is going to help produce offspring, right?

Hahahahah... You were almost onto something until I realized how easy it is to kill the guy who can't see well.

toms:

Baresark:
the family unit that is the most successful and common is what is commonly known today as the "nuclear family". That is a mother, father, and two offspring.

Do not forget that not so long ago infant mortality was much, much higher than today.
So you might give birth to seven children, but only two might survive to reproduce.

Infant mortality rates shot through the roof post civilization. Prior to 10,000 BCE, smaller family units were the norm, or at least according to some anthropologists. The best rate of success was greatly increased when not having more kids than you could hope to find food for and protect. Even if you could have 7 kids, you more than likely would not be able to both feed and protect the majority of them. In primitive societies, most people were also nomadic, so a woman who spent a 7-10 year chunk of her life pregnant or feeding would be to big of a burden on a small society.

maxben:

Baresark:
It also seems to work under the assumption that a people in ancient societies always sought to have a huge number of offspring, only evidence shows that prior to 10,000 BCE, the family unit that is the most successful and common is what is commonly known today as the "nuclear family". That is a mother, father, and two offspring.

Is this the case? I do not study anthropology so I am not familiar but from looking at some "primitive" cultures you often see polygamous units and in old civilization (those that came after 10,000 BCE) the most successful did seem to have various concubines and wives (see ancient Israel, Egypt, Mesopotamia, etc.). I honestly have no idea so this is a serious question.

A polygamous family unit was not normal for most of society. Only the extremely rich or powerful had such things. When it comes down to it, more kids than can be cared for is a burden. That is why humanity used to value kids so little during the first 9,500 years or so of "civilized" life (that and for a while an extremely mechanistic view of children was the norm for quite a while). If you had a farm and gave birth to one too many children, you might have just left it in the yard and let the pigs eat it. This is a thing that really happened (which is why I say fuck you to people who think humans are worse than ever). That said, you can still see the practice of the nuclear family in modern primitive societies. Native Americans, some African tribes, and the Native people of Northern Japan and Russia. That is of course assuming that they haven't changed, we don't have proof of.

It is, however, important to understand that nothing we think we know is absolute. The main reason the many children thing is common knowledge is because in recorded history we have seen it. Anthropologists study primitive societies and remains of them as much as they can and try to come up with the best understanding they can. It makes more sense to have smaller families when things are scarce, which doesn't mean all societies come to the same conclusion. It's more than likely there were people in every society that had "too many" kids, no matter how far back you look. But in remains of small societies, this has not been observed, to my knowledge.

I'm not an expert, I just read a lot, so I could be butt ass wrong about all of it.

Seems more likely that the far more complicated nature of female biology and hormone interaction can have unusual effects on brain chemistry. This evolutionary trait idea assumes

1. That early and pre-humans were monogamous.
2. That a female, after driving one male away, would then still be desirable to other men.
3. A female exhibiting regular PMS would be allowed to stay in the society.
4. That it was more common for the male to be infernal than the female.
5. The lack of offspring wasn't enough to clue the male and female in to the fact that the breeding wasn't working.

All of those assumptions seem questionable at best. Behavior like that seems more likely to be a negative survival trait in a primitive social community.

Rhykker:

theluckyjosh:
Why is it people assume PMS was selected *for* rather than not yet selected *out*?

You could write a similar article on myopia; after all, a gene that keeps you from seeing how butt ugly you are to each other is going to help produce offspring, right?

Hahahahah... You were almost onto something until I realized how easy it is to kill the guy who can't see well.

Aaaaaah ... but is the guy/gal with better eye sight going to breed?

"There's not enough beer in the world, Spleen."

Genes are the King's of the Swamp Castle; they don't care who killed who, so long as they get passed on.

Given moderate myopia, and epic ugliness, myopia is still in the genetic running!

*******

But, anyway, I was serious with the "Why is it people assume PMS was selected *for* rather than not yet selected *out*?" comment. Because a thing *is* doesn't mean it is good, or even selected for; side effects exist.

Baresark:
The best rate of success was greatly increased when not having more kids than you could hope to find food for and protect. Even if you could have 7 kids, you more than likely would not be able to both feed and protect the majority of them. In primitive societies, most people were also nomadic, so a woman who spent a 7-10 year chunk of her life pregnant or feeding would be to big of a burden on a small society.

That doesn't mean "permapregnancy" was not happening though, unless there are some data that back this up. Are there some decent methods to prove what was the actual number of children raised by an average family (and I mean physical sources) rather than merely a calculation that a specific number of children was beneficial? If several thousands years of more recent history are of any indication, infanticide "ad hoc" could've been much easier to figure out rather than some "natural" version of a contraception. There's an apt number of examples from behind the fence, where our various cousins live. Not sure which version of animal birth control should we presume for our ancestors though - and they vary a LOT.

Same about being a burden - it merely implies there's a cost, do we have any clue how a group defined efficiency and priorities in the first place? There's a trap in assuming the most reasonable version where conflicting instincts are involved. Not to mention survival of the family would've been in danger only if it followed "feed everyone" rule in the first place. There's enough of examples where "parents eat first" to doubt that.

As for the success - there's more to life/death than quantifiable goods that have to be divided. Disease, climate, accidents, conflicts, mistakes, birth itself, anything out of the ordinary - they all can produce an impressive death count on their own. Plus - even if we choose to believe those nomadic societies were trying to stick to 2+2 strategy, how could they even dream of accounting for infant mortality rate in any other way than... a "shotgun approach"? If decent number of kids in an entire group was the only "social security" that could be counted on, they had no luxury of "wait and see", certainly not with their lifespan. If anything, agricultural society seems to have at least lesser amount of variables to account for in comparison.

Wow... Rhykker, I usually enjoy your articles but your use of "bad" in this context is incredibly offensive to infertile men and women. Maybe you can imagine why an infertile male or female would be hurt by you saying the relationship is therefore inherently bad because he's shooting blanks or her uterine wall doesn't allow implantation? These titles really need to improve. I'd call it a low blow but surely that'd just come off as cheesy word play.

FYI, being around a pregnant woman can be like PMS on steroids. Holy shit, if you have experienced the mood swings women face in pregnancy then PMS is nothing but a blip on the radar comparatively.

Look, the symptoms of PMS are just because of the change in hormone levels of Estrogen and Progesterone. The cycle is necessary for switching out eggs and mood swings are always going to be an impact of flooding a system with most types of hormones.

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