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Testosterone May Make Women Less Trusting
Date:5/24/2010

Finding could help in understanding the brain's role in trust

MONDAY, May 24 (HealthDay News) -- It turns out that testosterone might be responsible for more than masculinity and Hollywood action movies: A new study suggests that women who get doses of the hormone are less trusting of strangers, a possible sign that testosterone boosts levels of caution.

The research doesn't prove a direct connection between testosterone, which is found in both sexes. But it does appear to indicate that the hormone helps reduce trust in women and, "in our opinion, protects them from harm," said study co-author Jack van Honk, a psychologist at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

The overall role of testosterone in the body remains something of a mystery. "We don't know a lot, to be completely honest," said Paola Sapienza, a professor of finance at Northwestern University who studies testosterone and how it affects decision-making. The hormone seems to be connected to aggression, she said, but "nobody really knows the mechanism by which testosterone changes behavior."

To make matters more complicated in the world of science, it's less clear what it does to women, she said, and there have been relatively few studies into testosterone's effects on them.

In the new study, 24 women, with an average age of 20, were given a dose of testosterone or a placebo under the tongue. Then they ranked the photographs of strangers, using a trustworthiness scale from -100 to +100.

Three days later, the women were given another dose -- testosterone if they'd gotten a placebo earlier, and vice versa -- and then looked at photographs again.

After they'd been given testosterone, the women were less likely to rank faces as being trustworthy, the researchers found. This effect was especially strong in women who were the most trusting to begin with.

Figuring out what this means is the tricky part. "We need to under
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