It is a long-standing question whether human sexual and reproductive cycles are affected predominantly by biology or culture. The literature is mixed with respect to whether biological or cultural factors best explain the reproduction cycle phenomenon, with biological explanations dominating the argument. The biological hypothesis proposes that human reproductive cycles are an adaptation to the seasonal cycles caused by hemisphere positioning, while the cultural hypothesis proposes that conception dates vary mostly due to cultural factors, such as vacation schedule or religious holidays. However, for many countries, common records used to investigate these hypotheses are incomplete or unavailable, biasing existing analysis towards primarily Christian countries in the Northern Hemisphere. Here we show that interest in sex peaks sharply online during major cultural and religious celebrations, regardless of hemisphere location. This online interest, when shifted by nine months, corresponds to documented human birth cycles, even after adjusting for numerous factors such as language, season, and amount of free time due to holidays. We further show that mood, measured independently on Twitter, contains distinct collective emotions associated with those cultural celebrations, and these collective moods correlate with sex search volume outside of these holidays as well. Our results provide converging evidence that the cyclic sexual and reproductive behavior of human populations is mostly driven by culture and that this interest in sex is associated with specific emotions, characteristic of, but not limited to, major cultural and religious celebrations.
Human Sexual Cycles are Driven by Culture and Match Collective Moods
Ian B. Wood, Pedro Leal Varela, Johan Bollen, Luis M. Rocha, Joana Gonçalves-Sá