Teams with high testosterone & low cortisol do better.

As the old saying goes, ‘There’s no I in team.”  There is a T though, and according to a new study, the more of it the better.  Research published in PNAS Journal this month shows that groups with high combined average testosterone levels are more likely to be successful.

Scientists have long wondered what makes a strong team, but work usually focuses on how well personalities or abilities mix.  This trial is one of the first to explore the part played by our hormones.

We know high levels of T can burn fat, increase muscle mass and improve strength so we can already safely say extra T helps sports teams. What’s interesting about this latest work though, is it looked at the effect on a competitive management task.

What did the trial involve?

370 subjects with M.B.A qualifications first gave saliva samples. From those researchers learned their testosterone and cortisol levels. They were then split into teams of between 3 and 6 people and asked to compete against each other, running a computerized laboratory for profit.

Groups made any choices they wanted to maximise profits, but the labs were too complex for one person to manage alone.  They needed worked on 24 hours a day, so each team had to rely on all its members.


After 7 days, each group’s final profit were compared to their mean average levels of T and cortisol.  Scientists found this data was an accurate predictor of a team’s success.  Those with high T and low cortisol did better in every performance category applied to them.

Cortisol is a stress hormone created when we’re under pressure. It blocks testosterone in the body causing levels to drop. So controlling cortisol is a vital part of any attempt to boost T naturally.

High T is often thought be responsible for dominant personalities, while too much cortisol can contribute to anxiety. Researchers were keen to find out if this influenced results. Based on volunteers self-reporting however no significant link was noted between these character traits and hormone levels.

Some feel that diversity strengthens a team, yet groups with a wide range of different hormone levels failed to outperform those with high matching high testosterone and low cortisol.

Why is this?

There are a number of reasons why these paricular groups might’ve done well.  The study authors say that confidence brought by high T, added to lack of stress any thanks to low cortisol makes a more comfortable and productive atmosphere.

Past studies also tell us that high T is connected to greater competitiveness and willingness to take risks, so that could also have played a part.


Whatever the reason is, this shows us that in a team, even if your own T is good and healthy, it doesn’t pay to let others around you drop too low. (Unless you’re on a limbo team of course.)  Send those unlucky lads our way, we’ll help ’em out.

Read the study here:

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