Past research has focused primarily on demographic and psychological characteristics of group members without taking into consideration the biological make-up of groups. Here we introduce a different construct—a group’s collective hormonal profile—and find that a group’s biological profile predicts its standing across groups and that the particular profile supports a dual-hormone hypothesis. Groups with a collective hormonal profile characterized by high testosterone and low cortisol exhibit the highest performance. The current work provides a neurobiological perspective on factors determining group behavior and performance that are ripe for further exploration.Abstract
Prior research has shown that an individual’s hormonal profile can influence the individual’s social standing within a group. We introduce a different construct—a collective hormonal profile—which describes a group’s hormonal make-up. We test whether a group’s collective hormonal profile is related to its performance. Analysis of 370 individuals randomly assigned to work in 74 groups of three to six individuals revealed that group-level concentrations of testosterone and cortisol interact to predict a group’s standing across groups. Groups with a collective hormonal profile characterized by high testosterone and low cortisol exhibited the highest performance. These collective hormonal level results remained reliable when controlling for personality traits and group-level variability in hormones. These findings support the hypothesis that groups with a biological propensity toward status pursuit (high testosterone) coupled with reduced stress-axis activity (low cortisol) engage in profit-maximizing decision-making. The current work extends the dual-hormone hypothesis to the collective level and provides a neurobiological perspective on the factors that determine who rises to the top across, not just within, social hierarchies.