Coping with competitive situations in humans

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2005 Feb;29(1):195-205. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2004.07.004. Epub 2004 Dec 13.


The analysis of effects of competitive situations in our species may contribute to acquiring deeper knowledge about the effects of social stress and its relationship with different pathologies. The latest studies indicate that the neuroendocrine response to competition depends more on subjective factors related to the cognitive evaluation of the situation than on the outcome itself. Findings suggest that when subjects cope with a competition, they assess it in such a way that it activates a psychobiological coping response. The pattern of this response may correspond to a predominant active or passive coping strategy, the choice ultimately depending on factors such as the importance of the competition for the subject, the subject's involvement or perceived possibilities of control of outcome or success (e.g. past experience in similar competitions, judge or rank of the opponent), among others. More important than winning or losing is the coping pattern displayed by the subject, which determines the hormonal changes experienced when facing competition and its outcome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Competitive Behavior / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Reference Values
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress, Psychological*
  • Testosterone / metabolism


  • Testosterone
  • Hydrocortisone