Dominance, politics, and physiology: voters' testosterone changes on the night of the 2008 United States presidential election.

PLoS ONE. 2009;4(10):e7543 DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0007543

 

Journal Homepage

Journal Title: PLoS ONE

ISSN: 1932-6203 (Online)

Publisher: Public Library of Science (PLoS)

LCC Subject Category: Medicine | Science

Country of publisher: United States

Language of fulltext: English

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AUTHORS


Steven J Stanton

Jacinta C Beehner

Ekjyot K Saini

Cynthia M Kuhn

Kevin S Labar

EDITORIAL INFORMATION

Peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 24 weeks

 

Abstract | Full Text

BACKGROUND: Political elections are dominance competitions. When men win a dominance competition, their testosterone levels rise or remain stable to resist a circadian decline; and when they lose, their testosterone levels fall. However, it is unknown whether this pattern of testosterone change extends beyond interpersonal competitions to the vicarious experience of winning or losing in the context of political elections. Women's testosterone responses to dominance competition outcomes are understudied, and to date, a clear pattern of testosterone changes in response to winning and losing dominance competitions has not emerged. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: The present study investigated voters' testosterone responses to the outcome of the 2008 United States Presidential election. 183 participants provided multiple saliva samples before and after the winner was announced on Election Night. The results show that male Barack Obama voters (winners) had stable post-outcome testosterone levels, whereas testosterone levels dropped in male John McCain and Robert Barr voters (losers). There were no significant effects in female voters. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: The findings indicate that male voters exhibit biological responses to the realignment of a country's dominance hierarchy as if they participated in an interpersonal dominance contest.