A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences asked adult women to rate the trustworthiness of photos of strangers' faces.
The hormone testosterone, normally linked to competition and dominance, made the most socially naive women more vigilant.
If these results are significant then would lowering testosterone make women more trusting? Also, what about men?
Testosterone, a steroid hormone associated with competition and dominance, is often viewed as an inhibitor of sociality, and may have antagonistic properties with oxytocin. The following experiment tests this possibility in a placebo-controlled, within-subjects design involving the administration of testosterone to 24 female subjects. We show that compared with the placebo, testosterone significantly decreases interpersonal trust, and, as further analyses established, this effect is determined by those who give trust easily. We suggest that testosterone adaptively increases social vigilance in these trusting individuals to better prepare them for competition over status and valued resources. In conclusion, our data provide unique insights into the hormonal regulation of human sociality by showing that testosterone downregulates interpersonal trust in an adaptive manner.
I would like to know whether women who are more inclined to feel trust have lower blood testosterone. Ditto for more trusting men.
The researchers above mention oxytocin's role in making people more social. Well, other research finds that oxytocin makes men more empathic. I hear Ray Davies of the Kinks singing "Lola": "Girls will be boys and boys will be girls". This is possible to achieve with copious use of hormones.
48 healthy males participated in the experiment. Half received an oxytocin nose spray at the start of the experiment, the other half a placebo. The researchers then showed their test subjects photos of emotionally charged situations in the form of a crying child, a girl hugging her cat, and a grieving man. The test subjects were then invited to express the depth of feeling they experienced for the persons shown.
In summary, Dr. René Hurlemann of Bonn University´s Clinic for Psychiatry was able to state that "significantly higher emotional empathy levels were recorded for the oxytocin group than for the placebo group", despite the fact that the participants in the placebo group were perfectly able to provide rational interpretations of the facial expressions displayed. The administration of oxytocin simply had the effect of enhancing the ability to experience fellow-feeling. The males under test achieved levels which would normally only be expected in women. Under normal circumstances, the "weak" sex enjoys a clear advantage when it comes to the subject of "empathy".
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2010 May 25 09:53 PM Brain Sex Differences|