Dominance, politics, and physiology: voters' testosterone changes on the night of the 2008 United States presidential election.

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BACKGROUND: Political elections are dominance competitions. When men win a dominance competition, their testosterone levels rise or remain stable to resist a circadian decline; and when they lose, their testosterone levels fall. However, it is unknown whether this pattern of testosterone change extends beyond interpersonal competitions to the vicarious experience of winning or losing in the context of political elections. Women's testosterone responses to dominance competition outcomes are understudied, and to date, a clear pattern of testosterone changes in response to winning and losing dominance competitions has not emerged. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: The present study investigated voters' testosterone responses to the outcome of the 2008 United States Presidential election. 183 participants provided multiple saliva samples before and after the winner was announced on Election Night. The results show that male Barack Obama voters (winners) had stable post-outcome testosterone levels, whereas testosterone levels dropped in male John McCain and Robert Barr voters (losers). There were no significant effects in female voters. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: The findings indicate that male voters exhibit biological responses to the realignment of a country's dominance hierarchy as if they participated in an interpersonal dominance contest.





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Stanton, SJ, JC Beehner, EK Saini, CM Kuhn and KS LaBar (2009). Dominance, politics, and physiology: voters' testosterone changes on the night of the 2008 United States presidential election. PLoS One, 4(10). p. e7543. 10.1371/journal.pone.0007543 Retrieved from

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Cynthia Moreton Kuhn

Professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology

This laboratory uses a multidisciplinary approach using both animal and model systems to study the biology of addiction and stress/depression. We are specifically interested in how adolescence and the hormonal changes of puberty and aging influence vulnerability to these conditions. Specific projects underway include: (1) the biology of sex differences in addictive drug action, (2) role of maturing dopamine systems in the onset of drug taking during adolescence, (3) the neurobiology of adolescent insensitivity to threat and its role in drug use.
Studies of sex differences focus on understanding estrogen and testosterone actions in the brain that are relevant to addiction, depression and stress-related behaviors. We are particularly interested in molecular targets of estrogen action including key proteins that regulate dopamine neurons and the stress peptide CRF. Current projects include the role of glucocorticoid and reproductive hormones in alcohol and opioid dependence in adolescence.  Adolescent studies are exploring the impact of maturing dopamine systems as well as cortical inhibition of these systems on novelty-seeking/risk taking as predictors of substance abuse vulnerability as well as responses to addictive drugs.
In addition to these animal studies, we collaborate actively with clinicians in psychiatry who are studying addiction and stress-related illness in humans, and participate in development of drug-abuse education and general neuroscience education materials for students, parents and other members of the lay public.


Kevin S. LaBar

Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

My research focuses on understanding how emotional events modulate cognitive processes in the human brain. We aim to identify brain regions that encode the emotional properties of sensory stimuli, and to show how these regions interact with neural systems supporting social cognition, executive control, and learning and memory. To achieve this goal, we use a variety of cognitive neuroscience techniques in human subject populations. These include psychophysiological monitoring, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), machine learning,  and behavioral studies in healthy adults as well as psychiatric patients. This integrative approach capitalizes on recent advances in the field and may lead to new insights into cognitive-emotional interactions in the brain.

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