Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Masters Track Participation in U.S. Reveals a Stable Sex Difference in Competitiveness


Psychology Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Social and Behavioral Sciences


Men are more likely than women to engage in direct competition, but it is unclear if this reflects social structural conditions or evolved predispositions. These theories can be addressed by testing if the sex difference in sports competitiveness has decreased over time in the U.S., a society where social roles have converged. Study 1 assessed participation and performances by masters runners (40-74 years) at road races and track meets. Fast performances (relative to age-specific, sex-specific standards) occurred twenty times more often at track meets than at road races, and men participated much more than women at track meets but not at road races. Thus, track meet participation is a valid indicator of competitiveness. Study 2 used data from national championship track meets and yearly rankings lists to test whether the sex difference in masters participation decreased from 1988 to 2012. Women comprised 25% of finishers across all years. The sex difference decreased initially, but there was no evidence of change since the late 1990s. Therefore, the sex difference in competitiveness partly reflects evolved predispositions.

Conference Name

The 25th annual meeting of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society

Conference Location

Loews Hotel at Miami Beach Florida

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