The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

The impact of testosterone fluctuations on competition in women


Department of Anthropology, Indiana University

Saturday 1:45-2:00, Ballroom B Add to calendar

The body of literature regarding male competition for mates is robust; the same cannot be said of female intrasexual competition. Female primates invest heavily in their offspring and are choosey when it comes to mate selection, yet this does not mean they do not compete for access to high-quality mates. Two types of indirect competition most favored by women are derogation of competitors and competition through self-enhancement. Recent research has indicated that women may experience a change across the menstrual cycle in certain behaviors that could foster this competition, particularly sexual initiative, mood, assertiveness, and self-esteem. Testosterone has been suggested as a possible mediator in these competitive behaviors, although studies of testosterone and competition have returned conflicting reports in humans. The present study followed 36 women through 2 menstrual cycles using physiological sampling, psychological surveys and competitive play in an Ultimatum game. There was a significant direct correlation between the interaction of testosterone across the cycle (levels and change) and direct competition in the Ultimatum game. Overall assertiveness was not significantly correlated with testosterone levels, although some of the interactions of assertiveness variables were, indicating a possible relationship between some aspects of assertiveness and testosterone. These results indicate a possible role of testosterone in mediating female intrasexual competition, although these connections require further study.

This research was supported in part by Indiana University, Bloomington

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