[FoRK] Dominance, Politics, and Physiology: Voters' Testosterone Changes on the Night of the 2008 United States Presidential Election

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Wed Oct 21 09:22:15 PDT 2009


http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0007543

Dominance, Politics, and Physiology: Voters' Testosterone Changes on the Night of the 2008 United States Presidential Election

Steven J. Stanton1, Jacinta C. Beehner2,3, Ekjyot K. Saini3, Cynthia M. Kuhn4, Kevin S. LaBar1*

1 Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America, 2 Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States of America, 3 Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States of America, 4 Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America

Abstract Top

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.

Citation: Stanton SJ, Beehner JC, Saini EK, Kuhn CM, LaBar KS (2009) Dominance, Politics, and Physiology: Voters' Testosterone Changes on the Night of the 2008 United States Presidential Election. PLoS ONE 4(10): e7543. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007543

Editor: Colin Allen, Indiana University, United States of America

Received: July 20, 2009; Accepted: September 28, 2009; Published: October 21, 2009

Copyright: © 2009 Stanton et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Funding: This research was supported by departmental funds from Duke University (to KSL) and the University of Michigan (to JCB) and a McClelland Postdoctoral Fellowship (to SJS). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

* E-mail: klabar at duke.edu

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Eugen* Leitl <a href="http://leitl.org">leitl</a> http://leitl.org
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