Alex Berezow reports: Testosterone does a lot of different things for a men — it masculinizes the body, boosts the sex drive, and contributes to hair loss. Now, researchers think it may also make men more honest.
In recent years, there has been an interest in determining how our hormones affect our economic behavior, such as gambling and financial risk taking. The financial industry is dominated by men, and if testosterone influences decision-making, this potentially has a profound implication for the national economy.
Paradoxically, testosterone promotes pro-social behaviors in some circumstances and anti-social behavior in others. The reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, but it may involve a man’s desire to increase his social status. Previous research shows that testosterone may actually make a man a fairer negotiator.
To investigate such phenomena further, a team of researchers administered testosterone gels to 124 college-aged male volunteers and placebo gels to 118 males. (The total sample size was 242.) They were then given a die and told to roll it, and whatever number came up was the amount of money they were to receive for participating in the experiment. Because they rolled the die in private, they could cheat (by reporting a higher value than they actually rolled). The authors hypothesized that the testosterone group would be more honest.
The results showed that both groups cheated, but the placebo group cheated more, which was consistent with the team’s hypothesis.