Male testosterone levels increase when victorious in competition against rivals, but not friends

May 14, 2013

Sporting events can bring a community together, such as when the Louisville Cardinals won the NCAA championship and University of Louisville campus was filled with camaraderie. They also can fuel bitter rivalries, such as the long-standing animosity between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs. A University of Missouri study has found that testosterone levels during group competition are modulated depending on the relationships among the competitors and may be related to the formation of alliances in warfare.

"One interesting thing about humans is that we are the only animal that competes in teams," said Mark Flinn, professor of anthropology at MU. "Our hormonal reactions while competing are part of how we evolved as a cooperative species. What we found in our study is that although male's increase when men are victorious against strangers or rivals, levels of the hormone tend to stay the same when competing against friends."

Flinn and his research team studied from varying on the island of Dominica while they played dominoes or cricket. Flinn found that when males competed against a group outside of their community, their levels rose during and after competition if they won, but diminished following a defeat. However, when males competed with their friends, their testosterone levels did not change in response to victory or defeat.

Competing in sport coalitions can raise testosterone levels in males, but males don't have to be competing in order to see a rise in testosterone. Flinn says that when watching a favorite sport team the viewer is a part of a coalition of fans in the community and can also get a rise in testosterone levels while watching games.

"For example, when MU plays the University of Kansas, males will probably have a huge increase of testosterone during the game and afterwards if their team is victorious," Flinn said. "At the same time we can create a coalition of fans while attending the game and bond together during the event."

Flinn suggests that coalitions may have had important effects on the evolution of human social psychology.

"The fascinating thing about humans is that whether we are watching or playing the sport, we have the ability to put interactions among the whole team in our heads," Flinn said. "That just shows how complex our social psychology is. For example, a hockey or basketball player can anticipate how his teammates are going to react when he passes to each one of them and predict the outcome. The ability for humans to be able to do that is pretty astonishing."

Members of Flinn's research team include Davide Ponzi, now a postdoctorate at the University of Chicago, and Michael Muehlenbein, associate professor of anthropology at Indiana University.

Explore further: Men may have natural aversion to adultery with friends' wives

Related Stories

Men may have natural aversion to adultery with friends' wives

March 21, 2013
After outgrowing teenage infatuations with the girl next door, adult males seem to be biologically designed to avoid amorous attractions to the wife next door, according to a University of Missouri study that found adult ...

Hormone levels higher for soccer fans watching a game, but not upon win

April 18, 2012
Soccer fans' testosterone and cortisol levels go up when watching a game, but don't further increase after a victory, according to a study published Apr. 18 in the open access journal PLoS ONE.

Low testosterone levels affect total lipid oxidation

December 7, 2012
(HealthDay)—Very low testosterone levels impact total lipid oxidation but have no effect on the production of very-low-density lipoprotein-triglycerides (VLDL-TGs), according to a study published online Nov. 27 in Diabetes.

Recommended for you

Neuroticism may postpone death for some

July 24, 2017
Data from a longitudinal study of over 500,000 people in the United Kingdom indicate that having higher levels of the personality trait neuroticism may reduce the risk of death for individuals who report being in fair or ...

Study examines effects of stopping psychiatric medication

July 20, 2017
Despite numerous obstacles and severe withdrawal effects, long-term users of psychiatric drugs can stop taking them if they choose, and mental health care professionals could be more helpful to such individuals, according ...

Study finds gene variant increases risk for depression

July 20, 2017
A University of Central Florida study has found that a gene variant, thought to be carried by nearly 25 percent of the population, increases the odds of developing depression.

In making decisions, are you an ant or a grasshopper?

July 20, 2017
In one of Aesop's famous fables, we are introduced to the grasshopper and the ant, whose decisions about how to spend their time affect their lives and future. The jovial grasshopper has a blast all summer singing and playing, ...

Perceiving oneself as less physically active than peers is linked to a shorter lifespan

July 20, 2017
Would you say that you are physically more active, less active, or about equally active as other people your age?

Old antibiotic could form new depression treatment

July 19, 2017
An antibiotic used mostly to treat acne has been found to improve the quality of life for people with major depression, in a world-first clinical trial conducted at Deakin University.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.