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'Winning' contests gives men testosterone boost

By Alexander J Martin, technology reporter
Men who believe they have beaten another man in a competition get a testosterone boost and an inflated sense of their sexual attractiveness, according to new research.
Scientists from the University of Cambridge believe that the hormonal and psychological shift plays an evolutionary role in making men more likely to approach new partners.
Their work was based completely on how men perceive themselves after a contest, rather than how women view them.The research team pitted 38 men in their 20s against each other in head-to-head battles on rowing machines and tested their hormone levels, as well as self-perceived attractiveness and confidence in approaching women.However, the participants were unaware that the competitions had been rigged to randomly declare the winner - regardless of who was the stronger rower.Previous studies have shown that winning competitions can affect male hormones, but it was not clear whether this was down the exertion required to win or whether it was psychologically driven.The new study by biological anthropologists, which is published in the journal Human Nature, reveals that just believing they have won is enough to spark fluctuations in the hormones that influence sexual behaviour.According to the anthropologists, this is an example of "plasticity" - the body adapting to a change in circumstances without altering its genetic make-up, such as a perceived change in social status after defeating a rival.
'Winning' contests gives men testosterone boost

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University of Cambridge anthropologists conducted the sutdy
The study's lead author, Dr Danny Longman, explained that the body attempts to take advantage of the apparent social improvement by inducing chemical and thus behavioural changes that promote a "short-term" approach to reproductive success.Dr Longman explained: "Much of evolution consists of trade-offs in energy investment."One reproductive approach is short-term, investing time and energy in attracting and pursuing many mates, and fighting off competition. Another approach is long-term, investing energy in raising offspring with a single mate."We found that a perceived shift in social status can cause male physiology to adapt by preparing to shift mating strategies to optimise reproductive success."
Dr Longman took saliva samples to test hormone levels before and after the rigged races, alongside psychological questionnaires, and found men who believed they had won had an average testosterone increase of 4.92%, while those convinced they had lost dropped by an average of 7.24%.Overall, men who believed they were winners had testosterone levels 14.46% higher their defeated opponents, regardless of whether they had actually won.
'Winning' contests gives men testosterone boost

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The researchers tested 38 men in head-to-head rowing machine competitions
Dr Longman added: "The endocrine system that controls hormones is responsive to situational changes. Previous research has shown that testosterone is lower when men are in a committed relationship, or have children, to promote long-term mating strategies."Our results show that both testosterone and its corresponding psychological effects can fluctuate quickly and opportunistically, shifting towards short-term mating in response to a perceived change in status that may increase mating value."Speaking to Sky News, Dr Longman said that the results tapped into "one of the most defining abilities in human evolution - the ability to adapt into changing environmental conditions"."Many species have to rely on genetic changes within new environments, but we can change our physiology quickly without this need to make a genetic change."The evolution of the human brain and its ability to release hormones that change out physiology quickly has been crucial to human success, explained the anthropologist."Very generally, the mind and the body are completely intertwined. Our mind senses changes in the environment and our body enacts physiological changes as a result of that."Although physical strength is the dominant indicator of male social status in many modern societies, Dr Longman said he was curious to see if similar results arose from intellectual challenges in the office-based culture many men now inhabit.
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He added that despite the hormonal drive towards promiscuity, winning competitions was not an indication of character."Male physiology may shift to take advantage of certain situations, but ultimately a man's decisions are up to him," said Dr Longman.
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