Individual willingness to enter competitive environments predicts career choices and labor market outcomes. Meanwhile, many people experience competitive contexts as stressful. We use two laboratory experiments to investigate whether factors related to stress can help explain individual differences in tournament entry. Experiment 1 studies whether stress responses (measured as salivary cortisol) to taking part in a mandatory tournament predict individual willingness to participate in a voluntary tournament. We ﬁnd that competing increases stress levels. This cortisol response does not predict tournament entry for men but is positively and signiﬁcantly correlated with choosing to enter the tournament for women. In Experiment 2, we exogenously induce physiological stress using the cold-pressor task. We ﬁnd a positive causal effect of stress on tournament entry for women but no effect for men. Finally, we show that although the effect of stress on tournament entry differs between the genders, stress reactions cannot explain the well-documented gender difference in willingness to compete.
The impact of stress on tournament entry