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Horm Behav. 2013 Jun;64(1):153-60. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2013.03.003. Epub 2013 Mar 19.

Women's intercollegiate athletic competition: cortisol, testosterone, and the dual-hormone hypothesis as it relates to status among teammates.

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Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


Recent research suggests that testosterone and cortisol jointly regulate dominance motivation and, perhaps, the status relationships that are affected by it. For this article, the results of six different studies of women's intercollegiate athletic competition were combined to give a sample size of almost ninety women for whom we had before- and after-competition values for salivary cortisol and testosterone for at least one and sometimes two competitions. For many of these women, we had surveys that allowed us to assess their status with teammates. In no matter what sport (soccer, softball, volleyball, and tennis) levels of salivary cortisol and testosterone increased when women participated in athletic competition. Salivary levels of C and T appear to rise in parallel during competition and increases in levels of one hormone are significantly related to increases in the other. Salivary levels of these hormones typically decreased for teammates who did not play but watched the competition from the sidelines. For women who played in two competitions, individual differences in the positive effect of competition on cortisol and testosterone were conserved from one competition to the next, affirming the personal consistency of endocrine responses to competition. Status with teammates was positively related to before-competition levels of testosterone, but only for women with relatively low before-competition levels of cortisol. This result provides novel support for the "dual-hormone hypothesis" as it relates to predicting social status in women's athletic teams - natural social groups of individuals who know each other and whose social hierarchy has evolved over the course of practice and play for at least one and, in some cases, several years of intercollegiate athletic competition.

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