Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 237–250 | Cite as

Testosterone and Cortisol Interact to Predict Within-Team Social Status Hierarchy among Olympic-Level Women Athletes

  • Kathleen V. CastoEmail author
  • David K. Hamilton
  • David A. Edwards
Original Article



The dual-hormone hypothesis posits that social status is positively related to testosterone levels when cortisol levels are relatively low and negatively related to testosterone levels when cortisol is high. In the present study, we test this hypothesis with Olympic-level women athletes using a novel status-hierarchy generation task that establishes rank-order among teammates along three dimensions: leadership ability, popularity, and skill.


Participants completed the hierarchy generation task and then, testosterone and cortisol levels were obtained from samples provided on a neutral-day baseline and immediately prior to competing in an international match.


The interaction between cortisol and testosterone predicted social status among teammates for both baseline and pre-match samples. Specifically, there was a negative association between testosterone and status for those who were relatively high in cortisol.


These results provide support for the dual-hormone hypothesis using a new, ecologically valid method for determining rank-order among members of a social group, in a special population of women athletes competing at the highest level of their sport.


Testosterone Cortisol Dual-hormone hypothesis Social status 



We thank the coaches, staff, and team members of the 2015-2016 USA Women’s National Field Hockey team for graciously cooperating with and participating in this research. Additionally, we thank Pranjal Mehta for feedback on an earlier version of this manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathleen V. Casto
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • David K. Hamilton
    • 3
  • David A. Edwards
    • 2
  1. 1.Social Sciences DivisionNew College of FloridaSarasotaUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.USA Field HockeyLancasterUSA

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