What can animal research tell us about the link between androgens and social competition in humans?

Matthew J. Fuxjager, Brian C. Trainor, Catherine A. Marler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The relationship between androgenic hormones, like testosterone (T), and aggression is extensively studied in human populations. Yet, while this work has illuminated a variety of principals regarding the behavioral and phenotypic effects of T, it is also hindered by inherent limitations of performing research on people. In these instances, animal research can be used to gain further insight into the complex mechanisms by which T influences aggression. Here, we explore recent studies on T and aggression in numerous vertebrate species, although we focus primarily on males and on a New World rodent called the California mouse (Peromyscus californicus). This species is highly territorial and monogamous, resembling the modern human social disposition. We review (i) how baseline and dynamic T levels predict and/or impact aggressive behavior and disposition; (ii) how factors related to social and physical context influence T and aggression; (iii) the reinforcing or rewarding aspects of aggressive behavior; and (iv) the function of T on aggression before and during a combative encounter. Included are areas that may need further research. We argue that animal studies investigating these topics fill in gaps to help paint a more complete picture of how androgenic steroids drive the output of aggressive behavior in all animals, including humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalHormones and Behavior
StateAccepted/In press - Feb 14 2016


  • Aggression
  • Androgen receptors
  • Androgens
  • California mice
  • Challenge hypothesis
  • Competition
  • Dopamine
  • Home advantage
  • Peromyscus californicus
  • Residency effect
  • Reward
  • Social experience
  • Testosterone
  • Winner effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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