Testosterone and social evaluative stress: The moderating role of basal cortisol

Academic Article


  • Research has suggested that stressful situations lead to a decrease in testosterone, whereas concern with one's social status increases testosterone. However, results from studies examining testosterone reactivity in stressful situations that involve evaluation by others (hence status concerns) are inconsistent. Furthermore, there is a lack of research examining individual differences in testosterone responses in such situations. In this study 85 male participants underwent the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST, which includes performing speech and arithmetic tasks in front of two critical evaluators) and practiced solving puzzles. Testosterone and cortisol levels were assessed from saliva. Across participants, testosterone increased from baseline to peak levels following the stressor tasks. Importantly, the increase in testosterone was larger for participants with lower basal cortisol. Hence, lower basal cortisol (which is known to be associated with low social fearfulness) may help one to mobilize a larger testosterone response in situations that involve social-evaluative stress. Given the hypothesized adaptive role of a larger testosterone response in social competition situations, the results suggest that there may be long-term benefits in learning to lower one's social fearfulness in situations involving potential for negative evaluation by others. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Bedgood D; Boggiano MM; Turan B
  • Start Page

  • 107
  • End Page

  • 115
  • Volume

  • 47