Ian B. Wood1, Pedro L. Varela2, Johan Bollen1,3, Luis M. Rocha1,2,*, and Joana Gonçalves-Sá2,*

1School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, Indiana University, Bloomington IN, USA
2Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia, Portugal
3Wageningen University, Wageningen The Netherlands
* To whom correspondence she be addressed.

Citation: I.B Wood, P.L. Varela, J. Bollen, L.M. Rocha, J. Gonçalves-Sá [2017]. "Human Sexual Cycles are Driven by Culture and Match Collective Moods." Scientific Reports. 7: 17973. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-18262-5. PMCID: PMC5740080. Watch a short video about the work . The arXiv:1707.03959 print is also available.


Human reproduction does not happen uniformly throughout the year and what drives human sexual cycles is a long-standing question. The literature is mixed with respect to whether biological or cultural factors best explain these cycles. The biological hypothesis proposes that human reproductive cycles are an adaptation to the seasonal (hemisphere-dependent) cycles, while the cultural hypothesis proposes that conception dates vary mostly due to cultural factors, such as holidays. However, for many countries, common records used to investigate these hypotheses are incomplete or unavailable, biasing existing analysis towards Northern Hemisphere Christian countries. 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 births, even after adjusting for numerous factors such as language 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. 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 major cultural and religious celebrations.

Keywords: complex systems, complex networks, data science, computational social science, social media, reproduction, sex