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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2008 Jun;94(6):1078-93. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.94.6.1078.

The social endocrinology of dominance: basal testosterone predicts cortisol changes and behavior following victory and defeat.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station A8000, Austin, TX 78712, USA.


Past research suggests that individuals high in basal testosterone are motivated to gain high status. The present research extends previous work by examining endocrinological and behavioral consequences of high and low status as a function of basal testosterone. The outcome of a competition--victory versus defeat--was used as a marker of status. In Study 1, high testosterone men who lost in a dog agility competition rose in cortisol, whereas high testosterone men who won dropped in cortisol. Low testosterone men's cortisol changes did not depend on whether they had won or lost. Study 2 replicated this pattern of cortisol changes in women who participated in an experimental laboratory competition, and Study 2 extended the cortisol findings to behavior. Specifically, high testosterone winners chose to repeat the competitive task, whereas high testosterone losers chose to avoid it. In contrast, low testosterone winners and losers did not differ in their task preferences. These results provide novel evidence in humans that basal testosterone predicts cortisol reactivity and behavior following changes in social status. Implications for the social endocrinology of dominance are discussed.

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