The menstrual cycle affects women's emotional states, with estrogen and progesterone having predominant roles. However, it remains unclear whether the phases of the menstrual cycle also affect women's motivational behaviors. In this study, the main aim was to investigate how the menstrual cycle influences approach-avoidance behavior under conditions of conscious versus unconscious processing of emotions. Briefly, after recruitment by advertisement and screening with a menstrual cycle survey questionnaire, 27 naturally cycling, healthy women participated in an improved "manikin task" and were presented both positive and negative emotional stimuli during early follicular, late follicular, and mid-luteal phases. Estrogen and progesterone levels were measured. Women in the late follicular phase exhibited the shortest response times for approaching positive stimuli, while women in the mid-luteal phase exhibited the shortest response times for avoiding negative stimuli. Estrogen and progesterone levels significantly correlated with the speed of the approach-avoidance responses observed for the women, indicating the important role that sex hormones have in mediating emotionally motivated behavior. Overall, these findings suggest that the menstrual cycle has strong and specific influences on women's approach-avoidance behaviors that are in part mediated by estrogen and progesterone. By identifying characteristics of these behaviors in the late follicular and mid-luteal phases, greater insight can be provided to women regarding the physiological influences of the menstrual cycle on their personal growth and security.

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