Testosterone, Male Sex Hormone, Also Makes Guys Honest


"Statistically, the probability for all numbers on the dice to occur is identical," neuroscientist Bernd Weber said in releasing the study, published in the peer reviewed journal PLOS One. But the participants who received the placebo earned significantly more Euros than the others, and since the results were random, they clearly must have fudged the facts.

But here's the clincher. The placebo group claimed they had far fewer worthless sixes, which would be statistically impossible. Unwilling to sacrifice Euros, they lied.

There was some cheating on both sides of the aisle, but the testosterone made a difference. Those guys lied a lot less.

So why would a hormone that is supposed to make men aggressive and concerned chiefly about themselves be less likely to lie, especially if no one else would ever know?

The German scientists believe testosterone also raises concerns over self-image, and lying to make a few bucks is not particularly noble. Unless you are a total loser, it's hard to feel good about yourself if you just lied.

That conclusion is in line with a large mega-analysis of global research on the role of testosterone led by Christoph Eisenegger of the University of Cambridge and published in the journal Cell last year. Eisenegger and colleagues at the University of Zurich concluded, "The role of testosterone in social interaction in humans might be best conceptualized as bringing motives for seeking social status to the fore."

It isn't just sex, or manliness. It's how the rest of the world sees us, and that doesn't always depend on aggression.

Research is difficult because testosterone doesn't just influence social behavior, it is also influenced by the nature of that behavior. Eisenegger's group noted that "testosterone levels rise within minutes in anticipation of both physical and non-physical competitive situations," whether it be tennis or chess.

Male prisoners who have committed violent crimes, including rape and murder, have been found to have very high levels of testosterone, which has been blamed for their aggressive behavior. But now scientists like Eisenegger are asking if they committed those crimes because of testosterone, or whether the higher level of the hormone is the result – not necessarily the cause – of that very behavior.

"'Testosterone poisoning,' now part of the language is a popular explanation for excessive 'manly' behaviors such as boasting, violence and pugnaciousness," the Penn State researchers concluded in their study. But "in fact there is little empirical support for these popular assertions.

"It is already clear that there is no simple one-to-one relationship between testosterone and machoism or aggressiveness or sexuality."

So testosterone has been getting a bum rap. You doubt us? Want to fight about it?

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