June 28, 2010
Some Men More Like Bonobos Or Chimps

In a competitive situation do you react more like a bonobo monkey or a chimpanzee?

DURHAM, N.C. -- The average man experiences hormone changes similar to the passive bonobo prior to competition, but a "status-striving" man undergoes changes that mirror those found in a chimpanzee, say researchers from Duke and Harvard universities.

Are you a status striver? Then you've got more in common with chimps.

A new study published Monday (today) in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals differing hormone levels in our two closest relatives, bonobos and chimpanzees, in anticipation of competition.

Chimpanzees live in male-dominated societies where status is paramount and aggression can be severe. In bonobos, a female is always the most dominant and tolerance can allow for more flexible cooperation and food-sharing.

If your body pumps out more testosterone before competition then you are more like a chimp./

Human males usually experience an increase in cortisol before many types of competition in a similar way as seen in the bonobos. However, if men have what is called a "high power motive," or a strong desire to achieve high status, they experience an increase in testosterone before a competition.

"These results suggest that the steroid hormone shifts that are correlated with the competitive drive of men are shared through descent with other apes," Wobber said.

Human males who win react in an atypical manner by pumping out testosterone

While some men may seem more bonobo-like before competition and others more chimpanzee-like, something unique about human males is that after competition they experience an increase in testosterone if they win or a decrease in testosterone if they lose -- which accounts for giddy or depressed sports fans following a win or loss. This variation in hormones post-competition was not observed in either chimpanzees or bonobos.

Maybe guys like to watch sports and root for a team because they want to experience that testosterone high that comes from winning.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 June 28 11:13 PM  Brain Species Compare

Parker Bohn said at June 29, 2010 9:34 PM:

It appears that winners experience testosterone spikes after beating strangers, but not friends.

Here is media write-up of a study showing this in video gamers (link to actual study @ bottom of article).

I wonder how pre-competition testosterone levels are affected by the stranger/friend dynamic?

Erich said at July 1, 2010 8:51 PM:

Sports is a voluntary drug, delivering hits of testosterone at semi-random intervals. I believe that other studies have shown fan expectations also temper testosterone levels, ie, if your team is expected to win, the bump isn't as great.

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