Performance during competition and competition outcome in relation to testosterone and cortisol among women

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A contribution to a special issue on Hormones and Human Competition.

This study investigated the relation between competition, testosterone (T), and cortisol (C) in women. One hundred and twenty female participants competed against a male confederate in a computerized laboratory task. The task was preprogrammed so that half the women won and half of the women lost the competition. T and C concentrations were measured in saliva samples collected at four time points before and after the competition. Accuracy and reaction time during the competition were recorded. T and C increased directly after the competition, though not significantly for C, and then decreased over time regardless of the competition outcome. Regression analyses demonstrated that baseline T was significantly and positively associated with competition accuracy, though only in individuals who were low in C. Individuals who were high in C showed no relation between T and accuracy. This relation was further qualified by competition outcome. Losers of the competition showed a significant positive relation between baseline T levels and competition accuracy, though only if they were low in C. No relation was found between T and accuracy in losers who were high in C. Winners of the competition showed no relation between T and accuracy, regardless of whether C levels were high or low. These results are in line with the dual-hormone hypothesis, whereby the effects of T on status-seeking behaviors are dependent on C levels for individuals whose status is threatened.

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