Less sex in Brazil tonight – and maybe less money too
There will probably be less sex in Brazil tonight because of the country’s devastating world cup defeat by Germany… and their economy could suffer, too. A trip back to the 1994 World Cup in USA explains why.
The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California was the scene of the World Cup Final between Brazil and Italy on the 17 July 1994. It was a contest of enormous importance to the two nations. Italy had famously been knocked out of the previous semi-final in Rome in 1990 when their hero Roberto Baggio kicked the last ball over the net during the penalty shoot-out to lose 4-3 to Argentina. Bad though this was for Baggio, that year’s cup was a lot worse for Colombia’s Andres Escobar, whose team left the tournament after a first-round defeat on 22 June against the United States because he scored an own goal: he was shot dead outside a bar in Medellín 10 days after his team’s return home in disgrace. In sport, people take winning very, very seriously, and no more so than in Brazil.
So, for the hundreds of millions of Italians and Brazilians who watched the match that sweltering Sunday, this was a very personal matter of wanting, often desperately, their team to win. Researchers from Georgia State University took testosterone measures from the saliva of some Brazil fans watching the match in a sports bar, and from Italian fans following it in a nearby pizzeria. Immediately after the game – which Brazil won on penalties – they measured it again. The average testosterone levels of the Brazilian fans increased by 28 per cent, compared to a 27 per cent decrease in the Italian men.
The two nationalities behaved differently, too. Some Brazilians were arrested for riotous celebration in the streets while the Italian men looked depressed and apathetic. Disheartened by the loss, several had to be pursued into the parking lot by the experimenters to collect post-game samples. ‘Testosterone, and the feeling of power associated with it, increases as subjects bask in reflected glory and decreases as they experience vicarious defeat,’ the researchers concluded.
Last night it was the turn of a hundred million Brazil fans to suffer what the Italians endured in 1994. This could conceivably have been the biggest pharmaceutical trial ever conducted, where the testosterone levels of an entire nation, men and women, plummetted in the face of a national humiliation and defeat.
Higher testosterone levels increase sexual desire in both men and women. But the effects of success are not limited to sexual activity – they shape economies, too. English national soccer team victories, for instance, are associated with increases in the FTSE 100 London stock exchange share prices. What’s more, London financial traders made bigger profits on days when their morning testosterone levels were higher, a pre-crash study showed. Winning increases testosterone levels, which in turn boosts not only sexual desire, but also the confidence and appetite for risk that is the psychological underpinning of national economies.
Good news for Germany, bad for Brazil.