Testosterone and cortisol levels in university students reflect actual rather than estimated number of wrong answers on written exam.

OBJECTIVES: After dominance-related encounters, testosterone levels increase in winners and decrease in losers. In humans, many exceptions have been described. It is possible that the complicated patterns in humans result from the methods limitations--measurement of hormone concentrations in simulated competitive events or sport instead in real-life situations.

METHODS: Here we studied changes in hormonal levels and self-estimated attractivity in real situations, namely in students after written exams.

RESULTS: We observed that the testosterone and cortisol increased or decreased in relation to the number of wrong answers on the exam. The number of wrong answers was a better predictor of the hormonal changes (increase of both testosterone and cortisol in successful, decrease in unsuccessful students) than the self-estimated number of wrong answers or a subjectively opinionated impression from the exam. On the contrary, the concentration of hormones before the exam and self-estimated attractivity were better predictors of the subjective impression from the exam than the number of wrong answers.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that the students' subconsciousness, which directly influences the concentration of hormones, is able to objectively estimate results of an exam better than their consciousness.

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