Salivary α-amylase response to competition: Relation to gender, previous experience, and attitudes

Katie T. Kivlighan, Douglas A. Granger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

152 Scopus citations


This study examined individual differences in salivary α-amylase response to competition in relation to gender, previous experience, behavior, attitudes, and performance. Participants were 42 (21 women) members of a collegiate crew team. Saliva samples were collected before, 20- and 40-min post-ergometer competition and at the same times on a non-competition day for comparison. Samples were assayed for salivary biomarkers of sympathetic nervous system (α-amylase) and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (cortisol) activity. Behavioral assessments included self-reports of dominance, competitiveness, bonding with teammates, competition-related strategic thinking, and performance. On average, salivary α-amylase increased 156% in response to the ergometer competition. By comparison, cortisol increased 87% across the same time period. Salivary α-amylase was higher across the competition for varsity than for novice athletes, and was positively associated with performance and interest in team-bonding. Regression analyses revealed that α-amylase reactivity explained individual differences in dominance and team bonding above and beyond that associated with cortisol reactivity, and that joint inactivation in α-amylase and cortisol reactivity to competition (low-low) was associated with high perceived dominance. The findings are among the first to integrate salivary α-amylase into the study of competition and reveal that intra-individual change in α-amylase may be influenced by a confluence of factors that include contextual, behavioral, and psychological factors and processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)703-714
Number of pages12
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Competition
  • Cortisol
  • Experience
  • Gender
  • Salivary α-amylase
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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