October 26, 2009
Testosterone Makes Men Less Generous In Game

Another nail in the Blank Slate coffin where men and women supposedly get socialized into their different preferences and behaviors. Researcher Karen Redwine at Whittier College and Paul Zak at Claremont University found that a testosterone cream made men less generous. DHT (dihydrotestosterone) had an even more dramatic effect.

The testosterone cream worked. The next day, twice as much of the potent sex hormone coursed through the veins of volunteers, on average.

The students then played a simple economic game with another participant via a computer. One volunteer is tasked with splitting $10 with another volunteer in any way he likes. The other volunteer either accepts the offer or rejects it as unfair, in which case no one gets any money. Each volunteer played this game in both roles, on and off the testosterone gel.

Overall, the testosterone cream caused a 27 per cent reduction in the generosity of the offers, from averages of $2.15 to $1.57, Redwine and Zak found.

Testosterone also made men more inclined to punish people who made unfair offers. Testosterone is therefore the enforcer of justice. One wonders what is the net effect of combining a smelly room with testosterone. War or an efficient system of justice?

An experiment I'd like to see: Do finasteride and dutasteride make men basically less selfish? These drugs block the conversion of testosterone into DHT. Also, do these drugs cause a long term decrease on the ability to do spatial reasoning? Or perhaps testosterone causes some male cognitive features and DHT causes others. So perhaps the drugs cause increases in some male tendencies and decreases in others.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 October 26 10:58 PM  Brain Sex Differences

dick fuel said at October 27, 2009 12:17 PM:

these drugs also increase testosterone and etradiol. also confounding is how well they permeate the bbb, the other roles of DHT (allopregnenolone generation --> GABA modulator) and the relative impact of central/peripheral hormone ratios on the brain. the variables are legion.

dick fuel said at October 27, 2009 7:25 PM:

the other role of 5-alpha reductase, not DHT

shannonlove said at October 29, 2009 12:22 PM:

Both effects can be explained by testosterone increasing an individual's willingness to stand their ground in any given circumstance. We are most likely genetically programmed with several behavioral strategies that are to be activated in different circumstances. One of the most importance circumstances is one's status with a group. A high status individual can risk strategies that a low status person cannot. Testosterone rises and falls as status rises and falls. The level of testosterone triggers different preprogrammed strategies. Giving individuals artificial testosterone tricks the brain into thinking that the individual's status in the group has risen making them more willing to risk fighting for their self-interest both by negotiating harder and by punishing perceived cheaters.

jim2 said at October 29, 2009 4:09 PM:

If my take on news stories is correct, there are a lot of men currently taking propecia (finasteride), so the data may be out there. If not there yet, the hypothesis or question is certainly ripe for testing.

The hair-loss prevention dosage is pretty low, though, so it may not be enough to generate much in the way of detectable behavior changes.

Julie said at October 29, 2009 4:17 PM:

Extra testosterone combined with a smelly room? Isn't that how the Declaration of Independence came about?

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