Also, the interplay between testosterone and the environment influences testosterone's effect, he added. In the environment of the bargaining experiment, testosterone caused pro-social behavior, Naef said.
"But in a more hostile situation like a prison, testosterone may cause aggressive behavior, because by being aggressive in a prison you may secure your status or achieve a high status," he said.
The report is published in the Dec. 8 online edition of Nature.
Another expert, George Wilson, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Miami, said the study "speaks to the dual role that biology and the environment play in structuring behavior, although biology appears to work in a way that is unexpected."
Wilson added: "We are complex animals, we are symbolic animals -- we are not led around purely by biology."
Challenges to status can be a powerful cultural force, Wilson stated. "They act in our conscious and preconscious in ways we are not always aware," he said. "We are status-seeking creatures."
Aggression is largely a male behavior in our society, which may explain how testosterone, the primary male sex hormone, became synonymous with aggression, Wilson noted.
"People will orient their behavior along the line of a cultural myth," he said. "It really speaks to the powerful socio-cultural forces in our society."
For more information on testosterone, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: Michael Naef, experimental economics laboratory, department of economics, Royal Holloway, Universit
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