Each participant took turns playing both investor and trustee. When they were the trustee, they were always given 60, indicating that the investor had entrusted them with the task of splitting up the whole sum.
As investors, participants who received testosterone were, on average, stingier they placed less trust in the trustee and kept more of their initial money. Participants who received the placebo, on the other hand, were more trusting investors, choosing to invest about 3.20 more than those who received testosterone.
Just as the researchers predicted, testosterone seemed to promote antisocial behavior in response to a potential threat in this case, a threat to financial resources.
But the opposite effect emerged when participants played the role of trustee. In this case, participants given testosterone chose to give more money back to the investor than participants who had been given a placebo. The results suggest that the trustees felt a responsibility to repay the trust that the investor ostensibly placed in them.
"While we expected the decrease in trust found in the first scenario, the increase in reciprocity was surprisingly strong and robust," Boksem notes. "Testosterone had a more pronounced effect on prosocial behavior than on antisocial behavior."
The fact that testosterone can promote prosocial behavior, at least in certain contexts, provides a more nuanced account than the traditional view of testosterone as being involved in purely aggressive and antisocial behavior, says Boksem. The researchers hope to run a similar study in men and they are currently investigating additional types of social behavior under various conditions of social threat.
|Contact: Anna Mikulak|
Association for Psychological Science