Testosterone, and winning and losing in human competition

Horm Behav. 1989 Dec;23(4):556-71. doi: 10.1016/0018-506x(89)90042-1.


Testosterone and cortisol were measured in six university tennis players across six matches during their varsity season. Testosterone rose just before most matches, and players with the highest prematch testosterone had the most positive improvement in mood before their matches. After matches, mean testosterone rose for winners relative to losers, especially for winners with very positive moods after their victories and who evaluated their own performance highly. Winners with rising testosterone had higher testosterone before their next match, in contrast to losers with falling testosterone, who had lower testosterone before their next match. Cortisol was not related to winning or losing, but it was related to seed (top players having low cortisol), and cortisol generally declined as the season progressed. These results are consistent with a biosocial theory of status.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Adult
  • Aggression / physiology*
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Competitive Behavior / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Male
  • Tennis*
  • Testosterone / blood*


  • Testosterone
  • Hydrocortisone