The Steelers, the Pistons, or the Rangers—when your favorite team wins, you may feel an ecstatic jolt. The thrill of victory? Sure. But the change in your mental state might partly be due to a vicarious wave of testosterone.
Testosterone levels surge in people and animals who win important competitions—and plummet in losers. That's true in male mammals competing for a female, or in boxers fighting for a championship. It even occurs in participants of decidedly nonphysical competitions—like chess tournaments.
Researchers found that simply watching an emotionally involving game on TV can raise and lower testosterone. In one study, Georgia State University scientists ventured out to sports bars and collected saliva samples from soccer fans watching a World Cup final. (Saliva is a good stand-in for measuring testosterone levels in the brain.)
Brazil took home the Cup—and testosterone levels among fans rose 28 percent over pregame levels. Meanwhile, testosterone levels fell by a quarter in dejected Italian fans.
Granted, these were no ordinary spectators. Many were Italian or Brazilian nationals, and all were so enthusiastic about their respective teams that they arrived at the bar waving flags, wearing team-color face paint, and chanting. In less committed fans, there might be little change in hormone levels.