Estrogen fuels competition in women

By Lauren Edwards • Published: July 8th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

What comes to mind when you think about testosterone? Male body-builders? How about tough guys in fierce head-to-head competition.

It’s a well-known fact that testosterone is linked to competitive, power-seeking feelings in men. But it might surprise you to learn that researchers now say estrogen affects women in much the same way.

University of Michigan researchers had forty-nine women… mostly in their twenties… participate in a competitive task and then measured their hormone levels.

The women were put in a “face-to-face” competition against other participants on a computer for ten rounds. After each round, the women were told how they fared compared to other participants. To further fuel the competition, researchers allowed these women to watch each other’s reactions to their win or loss. Saliva samples were then taken from the women to measure their hormone levels.

Researchers, who had measured each participant’s “power motivation” before the competition started, found that the more estrogen… not testosterone… the woman had, the higher her power motivation.

They also found that, for such power-hungry women, estrogen levels shot up when they won and crashed when they lost. Surprisingly, the opposite was found to be true for women who were not concerned with power. For them, estrogen levels actually decreased when they won and increased when they lost. Additionally, the rise in estrogen these power-motivated women felt lasted: They still had elevated levels the day after the competition.

Seems as though men aren’t the only ones who can get wrapped up in winning!