Anticipating Peer Ranking Causes Hormonal Adaptations that Benefit Cognitive Performance

Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper 2019-040/I

24 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2019

See all articles by Carsten de Dreu

Carsten de Dreu

Leiden University

Klarita Gerxhani

European University Institute

Arthur J. H. C. Schram

University of Amsterdam - Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB); Tinbergen Institute

Date Written: June 10, 2019

Abstract

Performance ranking is common across a range of professional and recreational domains. Even when it has no economic consequences but does order people in terms of their social standing, anticipating such performance ranking may impact how people feel and perform. We examined this possibility by asking human subjects to execute a simple cognitive task while anticipating their performance being ranked by an outside evaluator. We measured baseline and post-performance levels of testosterone and cortisol. We find that (i) anticipating performance ranking reduces testosterone and increases cortisol; (ii) both these hormonal responses benefit cognitive performance; which explains why (iii) anticipation of being ranked by a peer increases cognitive performance.

Suggested Citation

de Dreu, Carsten and Gerxhani, Klarita and Schram, Arthur J. H. C., Anticipating Peer Ranking Causes Hormonal Adaptations that Benefit Cognitive Performance (June 10, 2019). Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper 2019-040/I, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3401717 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3401717

Carsten De Dreu (Contact Author)

Leiden University ( email )

Postbus 9500
Leiden, Zuid Holland 2300 RA
Netherlands

Klarita Gerxhani

European University Institute ( email )

Villa Schifanoia
133 via Bocaccio
Firenze (Florence), Tuscany 50014
Italy

Arthur J. H. C. Schram

University of Amsterdam - Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB) ( email )

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CREED
Amsterdam 1018 WB
Netherlands
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