Testosterone, cortisol, and women's competition

Helen S. Bateup, Alan Booth, Elizabeth A. Shirtcliff, Douglas A. Granger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

213 Scopus citations


Hormone (testosterone, cortisol)-behavior relationships have been extensively studied among male competitors, and far less so among female competitors. To address this gap, we studied members of a nationally recognized college women's rugby team. Seventeen players (ages 18-22 years) provided saliva samples 24 h before, 20 min prior to, and immediately after five league matches. Subjects self-reported aggressiveness, team bonding, pregame mental state, postgame performance evaluation, and whether the opponent was more or less challenging than expected. Results revealed that both testosterone and cortisol levels increased in anticipation of the matches. Postgame levels of both hormones were higher than pregame levels. The pregame rise in testosterone was associated with team bonding, aggressiveness, and being focused, but was unrelated to perceptions of the opponent's skill. Testosterone change during the game was unrelated to winning or losing, evaluations of personal performance, or perceptions of the opponent's threat. Game changes in cortisol were positively related to player evaluations of whether the opponent was more of a challenge than expected, and negatively related to losing. These results are compared with hormone-behavior patterns found among male competitors and are interpreted within a recent theory of sex differences in response to challenges.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-192
Number of pages12
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Competition and hormones
  • Cortisol
  • Testosterone
  • Women competitors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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