Changes in testosterone (T) and cortisol (C) were evaluated in males competing in a non-athletic laboratory reaction time task. Subjects were randomly assigned to “win” or “lose” by adjusting feedback regarding their task performance. Further, subjects were randomly assigned to either a Close Contest condition (where one person barely “defeated” his opponent), or a Decisive condition (in which the victory was clear). Throughout competition, samples of saliva were taken and assayed later for T and C. Post-competition mood and attributions were also measured. Winners had higher overall T levels than losers, with no significant difference between Close Contest or Decisive Victory conditions. In contrast, C levels did not differ between winners and losers nor did Condition (Close or Decisive) have any effect. Mood was depressed in Decisive losers compared to all other groups. The results indicate that the perception of winning or losing, regardless of actual performance or merit on the task, differentially influenced T (but not C) levels, and that such hormonal changes are not simply general arousal effects but are related to mood and status change.
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