Transient shifts in testosterone occur during competition and are thought to positively influence dominance behavior aimed at enhancing social status. However, individual differences in testosterone reactivity to status contests have not been well-studied in relation to real-time expressions of competitive behavior among men and women. This research tests the association between changes in endogenous testosterone levels during competition and performance in terms of competitive endurance. Participant sex, social presence, and relative status outcomes (e.g., winning vs. losing) are tested as moderators of this relationship. In two studies, men and women (total N = 398) competed in the competitive will task (timed weight-holding) either individually or in the presence of an opponent (Study 1) or as a team with and without the presence of a competitor team (Study 2). Results showed a positive relationship between testosterone reactivity and performance for men, particularly those who won or ranked highest among their group -- with increasing testosterone predicting better performance and decreasing testosterone predicting worse performance. For women, the effect only emerged among individuals who competed in dyads and lost. In Study 2, an exploratory mediation analysis revealed that individual differences in trait dominance predicted both testosterone reactivity to competition and task performance, with testosterone reactivity (moderated by sex and status outcome) partially explaining the direct relationship between dominance-related traits and behavior. Our goal was to examine testosterone reactivity in relation to real-time competitive effort and highlight the potential role of this relationship in explaining how individual differences in trait dominance produce competitive behavior.
Hormones & Behaviorvol.
123, (July 01, 2020):