The male sex hormone causes status-seeking behavior, but not aggression, researchers say,,
TUESDAY, Dec. 8 (HealthDay News) -- People associate testosterone with aggressiveness, but the male sex hormone actually encourages a sense of fair play, a new study finds.
Testosterone does not cause aggression, said lead researcher Michael Naef, of the department of economics at Royal Holloway, University of London. But it does lead to "status-seeking behavior -- or trying to secure one's own status," he said.
Such status-seeking behavior can include aggression, as well as other behaviors appropriate to particular situations, the researchers said.
But they also found that people's preconceptions about testosterone, rather than the hormone itself, may cause them to behave anti-socially and unfairly.
For the study, Naef's team randomly assigned 121 women to receive testosterone or a placebo. The women then participated in an experiment where they were asked to distribute money.
The money could be distributed fairly or unfairly, and participants could accept or reject an offer. The fairer the offer, the more likely it was accepted. If no agreement could be reached, no one earned any money.
Women given testosterone made fairer offers than those who received the placebo, the researchers found.
However, women who were told they had received testosterone were more aggressive, whether they had actually received the hormone or not, the study authors noted. These women continually made unfair offers.
Naef said the effects seen in the women would be similar in men. "The effects of testosterone are very similar in men and women," he explained.
"We asked our subjects how testosterone changed their behavior, and they were all wrong. Most of them say it makes you aggressive and anti-social," said Naef. "It's more complicated."
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