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Competition, Power, and Testosterone: How Winning and Losing Affect Men’s Empathic Accuracy and Aggression


Competition, Power, and Testosterone: How Winning and Losing Affect Men’s Empathic Accuracy and Aggression

Vongas, John G. (2015) Competition, Power, and Testosterone: How Winning and Losing Affect Men’s Empathic Accuracy and Aggression. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Vongas_PhD_F2015.pdf - Accepted Version


This thesis investigates the effects of winning and losing on men’s testosterone and how these hormonal changes impact their emotion recognition ability or ‘empathic accuracy’ (Study 1) and their aggression (Study 2). It also explores how men’s personalized power motivation – their drive to influence other people for self-aggrandizing purposes – moderates the relationships between the competitive outcomes they experienced and their accuracy and aggression. In Study 1, 84 males competed in dyads on a spatial-cognitive task that allegedly gauged their leadership potential, future earnings, and likelihood of career success after which they interpreted people’s emotional expressions from static photographs. Results showed that winners’ testosterone decreased while that of losers increased. Second, winners were more capable of accurately inferring others’ emotions compared to losers and this ability improved with increasing personalized power. Third, testosterone change mediated the relationship between competitive outcomes and empathic accuracy, with post-competitive increases in testosterone relating to increases in accuracy. In Study 2, 72 males competed again in dyads after which they participated in two sequential tasks that measured their unprovoked (‘proactive’) and provoked (‘reactive’) aggression. As in Study 1, losers experienced a post-competitive testosterone increase, whereas winners experienced a decrease. However, neither competitive outcome nor testosterone change had a significant effect on proactive and reactive aggression. Moreover, as men’s personalized power increased, winners aggressed more proactively than losers, whereas losers aggressed more reactively than winners. Collectively, these are the first studies to explore how winning and losing interact with men’s personalized power motivation to affect various empathic responses. This research is important because we know little about what happens to behaviours and cognitions in the aftermath of a status-based contest. Given that competition is encouraged in many organizations and the workplace is a social setting in which zero-sum games are played out each day, findings from this research could assist managers in fostering healthier competitive work climates. Finally, among the myriad of future avenues worth pursuing, I particularly recommend that scholars look into how competition, personalized power, and endocrine changes jointly affect women’s empathic accuracy and aggression.

Divisions:Concordia University > John Molson School of Business > Management
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Vongas, John G.
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Business Administration (Management specialization)
Date:30 May 2015
Thesis Supervisor(s):Ferguson, Ronald
ID Code:980079
Deposited By: JOHN G. VONGAS
Deposited On:27 Oct 2015 19:32
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:50
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