Spanish supporters' testosterone and cortisol levels increased while watching the World Cup football match (soccer), when Spain beat Holland in 2010.
This is what a research, published in PLoS ONE, and carried out by researchers in the Laboratorio de Neurociencia Social Cognitiva, shows. The study is headed by Dr. Alicia Salvador at Universitat de Valčncia.
This research group has carried out different studies on different sports (judo, basketball, among others). Their results about the effects of winning or losing in relation with social status have been published in important scientific journals like NBR, PNEC, Hormones and Behaviour, Biological Psychology, etc. These studies have shown the importance of motivation, cognitive assessment, and expectations when someone attends a competition. In this study, they have demonstrated the psychobiological response of people when facing a competition but who are not having a direct participation. It clearly puts forward the importance of the social factor of the human behaviour.
In this case, the study analyzed the psychobiological response -- in men and women -- when they are not actors in the competition, that means, when the competition's outcome, victory or defeat, is out of their control. Previously, there was only a publication similar to this study, but it had some methodology mistakes. This study improved those conditions, also using a control situation with which they compared the analyzed response.
For this study, fifty supporters of the Spanish team watched the final in a public space or at home, with their families or friends. The researchers asked for their expectations and feelings before the match, and they checked their testosterone and cortisol levels before, during and after the match.
Testosterone, status hormone, increases when facing a competitive situation which can defy the social status of the contenders. In line with this, the results of the study showed that the Spanish supporters' testosterone levels were higher during the match's day than on a different day. On the other hand, the exposure to a physical stressor triggers the increase of cortisol hormone, which is the stress hormone, and which also liberates when the social status is threaten. Thus, the cortisol levels were higher on the match's day than on a different day as well. Researchers suggest the the World Cup final match meant a threaten to the 'social entity' of the supporters, because the social status of the supporters was associated with the result of the match and the performance of the players at that moment.
The stress levels were different depending on the person. The most passionate supporters suffered from higher stress. Watching the match was more stressing for men, no for being males but for their interest in soccer. The most passionate supporters experiences the higher increase in cortisol during the match, and thus, they found the match much more stressing. The youngest supporters had more cortisol than those more aged as well.
- Leander van der Meij, Mercedes Almela, Vanesa Hidalgo, Carolina Villada, Hans IJzerman, Paul A. M. van Lange, Alicia Salvador. Testosterone and Cortisol Release among Spanish Soccer Fans Watching the 2010 World Cup Final. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (4): e34814 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0034814
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