The Role of Status Motivation and Social Context in Predicting Competitive Will and Hormonal Response to Competition Open Access

Casto, Kathleen Virginia (2016)

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The motivation for social status drives behavior in competition. Levels of testosterone and cortisol, hormones related to status motivation, change in response to competition depending on various Person and Context factors. This study employed a novel, effort-based competitive task in which performance is determined by the willingness to endure physical discomfort to be a winner, a measure of individual differences in the motivation to compete, i.e., competitive will. Person factors (traits related to status motivation: competitiveness, power/dominance motivation, and achievement orientation) and Context factors (social presence and competition outcome) were tested as predictors of competitive will and hormone response to competition in men and women (N = 158). Results showed that a combination of "status motivation" traits significantly predicted competitive will performance. Individual differences in status motivation also interacted with competition outcome (win/loss) to predict the testosterone change associated with competition - for those who won, higher status motivation predicted higher testosterone change. During competition, cortisol levels increased in men and decreased in women, except for women who competed against men. Social context also influenced competitive will - for those who competed face-to-face, performance in the task was significantly and positively related to co-competitors' times, an effect interpreted as resulting from the psychological drive for social conformity. These results suggest that competitive behavior is driven by paradoxical motives for both social status and affiliation. And, these motives interacting with social context, appear to have important hormonal underpinnings.

Table of Contents

Introduction. 1

Competitive motivation, willingness to compete again, and trait competitiveness. 5

Social facilitation in competition. 8

Present study. 10

Methods. 11

Participants. 11

Oral contraceptive use. 12

Measures. 12

Competitive Will Task. 15

Willingness to compete again. 16

Saliva samples and hormone assay. 16

Procedure. 17

Statistical analyses. 19

Results. 20

Descriptive statistics. 20

Person factor: Competitiveness, power, and achievement orientation. 21

Context factor: Presence or absence of a competitor of the same or different sex. 24

Person by Context interaction. 26

Winning and losing. 28

Baseline testosterone and cortisol as predictors of competitive behavior. 29

Willingness to compete again. 30

Task-specific confidence and motivation in relation to hormone response to competition.31

Discussion. 31

The "status motivated individual": Constituent parts and behavior in competition. 33

Hormonal correlates of status motivation and competitive will. 40

Hormonal response to competition. 44

Social conformity in competitive will performance. 45

Limitations. 47

Conclusions. 48

References. 50

List of Tables. 60

List of Figures. 62

Appendix. 72

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