Modupe Akinola, Columbia Business School

Lecture title:

Collective Hormonal Profiles Predict Group Performance


Modupe Akinola, Columbia Business School

Speaker(s) Web Pages:

Semester: Winter 2017

Date: Friday, February 24, 2017

Time: 1:30 - 3:00 PM

Venue: Room R1220, Ross School of Business

Additional Notes:

Modupe Akinola is the Sanford C. Bernstein Associate Professor of Leadership and Ethics at Columbia Business School. Professor Akinola examines how organizational environments can engender stress, and how this stress can influence individual and organizational performance. She uses multiple methodologies, including physiological responses (specifically hormonal and cardiovascular responses), behavioral observation, and implicit and reaction time measures, to examine how cognitive outcomes are affected by stress. Additionally, Professor Akinola examines the strategies organizations employ to increase the diversity of their talent pool, as well as the biases that affect the recruitment and retention of women and minorities in organizations. Professor Akinola teaches the Core Leadership course to Columbia Business School MBAs and lectures in several executive education programs at Columbia Business School. Prior to pursuing a career in academia, Professor Akinola worked in professional services at Bain & Company and Merrill Lynch.


Prior research has shown that an individual’s hormonal profile can influence the individual’s social standing within a group. We introduce a different construct—a collective hormonal profile—which describes a group’s hormonal make-up. We test whether a group’s collective hormonal profile is related to its performance. Analysis of 370 individuals randomly assigned to work in 74 groups of three to six individuals revealed that group-level concentrations of testosterone and cortisol interact to predict a group’s standing across groups. Groups with a collective hormonal profile characterized by high testosterone and low cortisol exhibited the highest performance. These collective hormonal level results remained reliable when controlling for personality traits and group-level variability in hormones. These findings support the hypothesis that groups with a biological propensity toward status pursuit (high testosterone) coupled with reduced stress-axis activity (low cortisol) engage in profit-maximizing decision-making. The current work extends the dual-hormone hypothesis to the collective level and provides a neurobiological perspective on the factors that determine who rises to the top across, not just within, social hierarchies.

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