Robert Tamayo


The Science is Settled Part 2: Testosterone

The science is settled. Testosterone causes aggressive, selfish, and risky behavior.

Except, of course, that it doesn't.

Testosterone doesn't cause aggressive behavior

A study from 2009 shows that testosterone doesn't cause aggressive behavior. Instead, higher levels of testosterone in individuals worked to provide a benefit to everyone involved. Emphasis mine:

The study's results, however, contradict this view sharply. Test subjects with an artificially enhanced testosterone level generally made better, fairer offers than those who received placebos, thus reducing the risk of a rejection of their offer to a minimum. "The preconception that testosterone only causes aggressive or egoistic behavior in humans is thus clearly refuted," sums up Eisenegger. Instead, the findings suggest that the hormone increases the sensitivity for status.

As pointed out in the study, higher testosterone also leads to a drive for status. But the high status is inseparable from the group to which the status belongs. This means that the high testosterone individual will seek to win people over with sociable conduct rather than force. He'll save the aggressive behavior for defense of his group; because the status is dependent on the group, defense of the group is closely related to defense of his status.

From an observational standpoint, it was always clear to me that higher testosterone individuals were usually the most calm and collected members of a group. They were the ones who were the most sure of themselves and secure in their status. The only time a high testosterone person was a problem to anyone was if their group was being threatened in some way.

In contrast, the lower testosterone men in a group always seem to cause the most problems. Their misunderstood conception of what a higher status and higher testosterone individual would do in any given situation leads them to do things that end up hurting everyone. For example, in the study, the men who were given the placebo testosterone made obscenely demanding offers to their prospective partners, the result being that no deal was made and everyone lost in the end. Making sure everyone loses and ends up hating them is exactly the sort of thing that low testosterone men do in a society when they think they are being Alpha AF.

Maybe it will eventually be discovered that aggressive behavior is actually caused by a lack of testosterone, not an abundance of it?

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