While the effects of Testosterone on sexual function are well-known, studies regarding the social impact of Testosterone are more scarce.
Testosterone has a powerful influence on psychological and emotional processing. Studies also show that the opposite is true—our circumstances, experiences, and the perception of our experiences also affect the volume of Testosterone that the male body produces.
Scientists from Cambridge University recently published a study regarding the association between competitive success, Testosterone Levels, and sexual self-worth.
The results suggested that when men compete, a man that perceives himself as the victor will experience an influx in Testosterone Production combined with increased confidence in their desirability to possible partners.
The Influence of Victory On Testosterone
The researchers designed a deceptively simple study that revolved around pairs of men competing against one another on rowing machines. Although the participants believed that the competition was honest, the rowing machines randomly selected a winner.
Before the race, the men had their Testosterone Levels analyzed, and they also self-reported their assertiveness with women and their attractiveness.
After the rowing competition was complete, the same variables were tested again. All participants were in their twenties, and there were 38 participants overall.
Prior research has shown that men that win events have elevated Testosterone Levels. While one may assume that the act of winning itself could provide a masculine boost, these studies also opened the possibility that men that are predisposed to succeed and achieve have naturally higher Testosterone Levels than their opposition.
The goal of this study was to determine the effect that winning has on Testosterone Levels divorced from the predisposition of those that tend to win.
How Was Data Collected for This Testosterone Study?
Testosterone Levels were measured with saliva samples before the competition began, and after it was complete.
Participants also filled out some psychological surveys, measuring different factors such as their confidence in approaching attractive women, interest in casual sex, and overall self-esteem.
Participants that thought that they won the rowing competition experienced an increase in Testosterone Levels averaging nearly 5%.
On the other hand, men that felt that they lost the contest experienced a decline in Testosterone of more than 7%. All in all, the winners had the advantage over their competitors by a change in Testosterone of over 14%.
Consider that this test involved an arbitrary winner. In real competition, the difference in Testosterone between the competitors could potentially be even wider depending upon the influence that Testosterone has on strength, energy level, and other factors.
While “losing” participants did not perceive themselves less valuable to potential partners or less confident in their ability to talk to women, winners both felt more willing to talk to attractive mates and felt more attractive to potential partners.
Arbitrary Selection Provides Cleaner Results
By selecting a random winner, researchers were able to instill the sense of male competition and victory without the “winner” having a natural advantage over the loser.
With this level of control, researchers can more effectively analyze the psychological effect of winning on Serum Testosterone.
This simple study is a fantastic combination of psychology, physiology, and urology.
It was conducted by biological anthropologists and released in Human Nature, an interdisciplinary academic journal interested in the study of the connection between biology and sociology. The results of this study show that just thinking that you're a winner can unleash higher Testosterone Levels, which further encourages an individual to pursue sexual desires.
Plasticity and Human Nature
This appears to demonstrate a physiological concept known as “plasticity.” Plasticity alludes to the idea that the body can change and adapt to circumstances rapidly without a change in genetic composition.
In this instance, a man's sub-conscious shift in perception of social status leads to an increase in Testosterone, which further influences a man to elevate his self-perceived position on the sexual hierarchy.
This is a combination of psychology and biology encouraged by competition and physical exertion. The mind perceives itself as a winner, and this psychological recognition triggers a cascade of hormone production, which goes to reinforce our self-perception further and leads to improved confidence. This goes to show how the mind and body are intrinsically linked and also how self-perception can feed into reality.
The Evolutionary Benefits of Competition
One of the critical factors involved in evolution is energy expenditure. Two common mating strategies are monogamy and promiscuity.
Some animals exclusively operate singly, while others adapt their approach to social circumstances. This also applies to human sexuality. Some men are concerned with having many sexual partners, while others are concerned about protecting and fostering a relationship with a single partner. This study provides evidence that competitive success feeds a male's desire for the attention of women.
Other factors, of course, do have an impact on Testosterone Levels. For example, men that are committed to their partners have lower Serum Testosterone than single men.
Men with children also tend to have lower Testosterone, to encourage them to focus on supporting the children and the mate that they have rather than seeking out additional partners.
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