Winning a competition really can stoke a man’s ego – to the extent that they may be more likely to cheat on their partners, a new study suggests.
Researchers have found that men experience a testosterone boost when they believe they’ve bested another man at something, causing some to view themselves as a more valuable ‘sexual prospect.’
And, it all boils down to the belief that they have won, as opposed to the actual effort of the task itself.
The study showed that winning causes hormonal fluctuations in men that can influence their sexual behaviour and make them more likely to approach attractive women.
In the new study from Cambridge University, researchers measured men’s hormone levels and self-perceived attractiveness, along with their confidence in approaching attractive women.
Thirty-eight men in their twenties were surveyed before and after competing in head-to-head competitions against other men on rowing machines.
But, the competitions were rigged to select a random winner regardless of who was actually stronger.
This revealed that believing they’d won was enough for men to experience and increase in testosterone levels and self-esteem.
In turn, this altered their sexual behaviour.
‘Much of evolution consists of trade-offs in energy investment,’ says lead author Dr Danny Longman.
‘A common trade-off for males both across and within species is between mating strategies. One reproductive approach is short-term, investing time and energy in attracting and pursuing many mates, and fighting off competition.
‘Another approach is long-term, investing energy in raising offspring with a single mate.
‘We found that a perceived shift in social status can cause male physiology to adapt by preparing to shift mating strategies to optimize reproductive success.’
Men who thought they won the competition saw an average testosterone increase of 4.9 percent, according to the researchers.
On the other hand, testosterone plummeted in those who believed they’d lost, dropping by an average of 7.24 percent.
This made for an average 14.46 percent difference in the testosterone levels between those who thought they won, and those who thought they lost.
And, while losing didn’t affect the men’s self-perceived value as a mate or confidence approaching women, winning had a significant impact.
Men who were crowned winners were 11.29 percent more likely to approach attractive women in effort ‘to instigate sexual relations.’
Their self-perceived mate value also went up by 6.53 percent.
The tests, the researchers explained, were designed to mimic social and sexual competition as it was essentially a show of strength.
‘Victory in rowing contest strongly implies the possession of greater physical strength than the opponent, a trait found to be valued by women in our evolutionary past when choosing a mate,’ Longman said.
According to the researchers, the feeling of winning against another man sparks a shift in their mating strategies, pushing them towards short-term thinking.
‘The endocrine system that controls hormones is responsive to situational changes,’ Longman said.
‘Previous research has shown that testosterone is lower when men are in a committed relationship, or have children, to promote long-term mating strategies.
‘Our results show that both testosterone and its corresponding psychological effects can fluctuate quickly and opportunistically, shifting towards short-term mating in response to a perceived change in status that may increase mating value.’
But, the researcher adds: ‘Male physiology may shift to take advantage of certain situations, but ultimately a man’s decisions are up to him.’