Testosterone Tied to Prosocial Behavior

Recommended by Dr. Michael White, Updated on December 22nd, 2017
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By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on October 1, 2013

New research suggests testosterone can promote generosity, but only when there is no threat of competition.

The study is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Study findings show that testosterone is implicated in behaviors that help to foster and maintain social relationships, indicating that its effects are more nuanced than previously thought.

Testosterone may mediate competitive and potentially antisocial behavior when social challenges or threats need to be confronted and handled, said lead researcher Maarten Boksem, Ph.D., of Erasmus University, in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

But it can also induce prosocial behavior in the absence of these threats, when high status and good reputation are best served by positive behavior.

Animals studies have shown that testosterone plays an important role in dominance behavior, so Boksem and colleagues reasoned that testosterone in humans would also increase a drive for social status.

But we doubted that this drive would automatically result in aggressive and antisocial behaviors, said Boksem. We hypothesized that testosterone could perhaps also lead to prosocial behavior if such behavior would be beneficial for maintaining or obtaining social status.

To test this hypothesis, the researchers had 54 female volunteers ingest a liquid solution several hours before participating in an investing game some volunteers received a placebo solution, while others received a solution with added testosterone.

In the investing game, participants were given 20 (about $27 USD) and were instructed that they could keep the amount they wanted and invest whatever remained with a trustee (another participant). The invested portion would be tripled and split by the trustee, who would keep whatever portion she wanted and return the rest to the investor.

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Testosterone Tied to Prosocial Behavior

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