Study Investigates the Effects of Democratic Outcomes on Testosterone Levels

Posted by Dr. Michael White, Updated on March 30th, 2022
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Testosterone Levels are strongly impacted by social pressures.

Studies have shown that Testosterone has strong effects on competitiveness, aggression, and dominance in both animals and humans.

There have been a wide variety of studies published in the last decade that explore the wide-ranging social causes of Testosterone fluctuation.

Researchers recently published an article exploring how voting outcomes impacted Testosterone Levels in a recent edition of the academic journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

The 2012 Presidential Elections and Men's Testosterone Levels

Specifically, this study analyzed how the defeat of Mitt Romney by Barack Obama in the 2012 United States presidential election altered the Testosterone Levels of Romney voters in the wake of defeat.

Perhaps surprisingly, men that voted for Romney experienced a sharp boost in Testosterone upon seeing their chosen candidate lose the election.

There was also a notable correlation between the strength of the surge of Testosterone caused by the loss and the level of disdain that the men had for the winning candidate.

In terms of human psychology, American elections are largely about group dynamics. One's chosen party or candidate represents their in-group and the status of that group.

In many forms of competition (especially direct competition), winning leads to an increase in Testosterone Levels, and losing suppresses Testosterone. This simple rubric is known as the biosocial model of status. Political parties, elections, and indirect competition make things a bit more complicated, however.

Elections Provide Insights Into Complex Group Dynamics

Elections are a fantastic way to evaluate how group dynamics and competition impact psychology. Voting for the winner confirms one's status, and losing elections can threaten that status.

Earlier studies have shown that voters in winning elections experience the surge in Testosterone predicted by the biosocial model of status.

The goal of this study was to examine how losing an election affected Testosterone Levels in men that voted for Mitt Romney and how changes in Testosterone in this group affected the perception of Barack Obama.

Smrithi Prasas and her associates hypothesized that losing an election would encourage voters to denigrate the winner in an attempt to regain lost social status.

Smrithi Prasas' study included 95 participants, 62 voted for Obama, and 33 voted for Romney. Her goal was to examine how the results of the election would motivate how the winner was perceived and how Testosterone affected those views.

Participants took at-home Testosterone tests the day preceding the election and the day after. They also took a test the night of the election. All participants took surveys about President Obama before the election and after.

How Did Obama and Romney Voters React to the 2012 Presidential Election?

Researchers found that after Obama was elected, Obama voters experienced lower Testosterone. Romney supporters, however, got a Testosterone Boost. A Romney voter's opinion of Obama decreased in correlation with the spike in Testosterone experienced from the loss.

Romney voters that didn't experience as significant an increase in Testosterone had a softer stance on Obama's win.

Obama voters, on the other hand, experienced no changes in attitude toward the elected President related to their Testosterone.

Previous Study Offers Different Results and Further Insights

This study is not the first of its kind to be conducted. A similar study took place during the 2008 election between George W. Bush and John Kerry. In this study, the losing Kerry voters experienced a significant loss in Testosterone rather than the winning Bush voters.

This leads Prasas and her team to hypothesize that there are different underlying factors at play that led to opposite outcomes.

For example, the 2012 election was much tighter, whereas the 2008 election was decided more quickly.

The loss was more unexpected for Romney voters than Kerry voters, so the Testosterone boost might indicate a desire to reclaim lost social status after losing unexpectedly. There is also a chance that the underlying ideologies and associated psychological differences could impact how losses affected Testosterone.

The researchers believe that these hormonal variations may have a significant influence on how elected representatives are perceived by different groups within the population.

These two studies suggest that psychological/hormonal outcomes in these competitions are not binary, but are affected by many variables in how the competition plays out.

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