Steroid Hormones in Sport Spectators: Does Sports Violence Relate to Community Violence?

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Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Linda Mealey, Psychology


In 1992, newspapers were full of discussion about a just-published study that suggested that violence towards women increased on Super Bowl Sunday. The authors claimed that football models violence, and because more people watch the Super Bowl than any other football game, violence toward women would, at that time, reach a peak. However, other researchers have shown that testosterone levels rise with winning and drop with losing. Since testosterone is also closely related to aggression this might explain increases in violence by fans after viewing their team win an important match. To test this possibility, saliva was sampled from observers of high stakes football games and assayed for: testosterone, cortisol, and DHEA. Analyses involved: (1) describing the dynamics of testosterone, cortisol, and DHEA from baseline to various points in each game as the participants’ team was winning or losing: (2) assessing hospital and police records for incidences of fighting, battering, and other forms of aggression on dates of wins vs. loses of important home team competitions. Neither analysis of hormones nor analysis of community violence supported a sports-aggression connection, suggesting that the initial study reported an alpha error.