According to new findings published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, social prestige is linked with an increase in testosterone levels.
“We were fascinated with the so-called ‘winner effect’ that have been observed in many different species, from insects, fish, to non-human primates,” says Joey T. Cheng, the corresponding author of the study and an assistant psychology professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
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“The winner effect refers to how an animal that has won a fight or some kind of competition is more likely to go on winning in subsequent encounters. Biologists have known about this for a very long time and have been wrestling with trying to understand how the winner effect comes about," continues Cheng.
"That is, how does a previous victory help an individual win again?”
Researchers analysed testosterone levels of 177 marching band members, surveying them on who they thought were the most successful, skilled, or respected members of their musical community.
After following the participants for 2 months, they found that male members of the marching band who ranked highly showed a rising testosterone levels over the following months.
Conversely, men with a lower social profile, showed a decline or little change in testosterone.
“Our social experiences — such as the experiences of winning in a variety of different contexts that make us feel respected, admired, and proud — have far-reaching effects on our psychology and biology. The effects of these kinds of experiences have significant effects on our motivation, morale, and future success,” Cheng tells PsyPost.
“We found these effects of status-dependent testosterone changes in men only. By contrast, women’s status appeared to be unrelated to their prestige in the community. More work is needed on understanding how women compete for status and the physiological substrates that underlie women’s competitive encounters.”
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