Two studies seem to indicate that higher levels of testosterone equates with greater levels of honesty. In other words, the higher your testosterone levels are, the more honest you’re likely to be.
Would I lie to you, baby (about anything other than my ‘supplementation’ regime)?
Over the last couple of months we’ve been examining the male hormone testosterone in depth, with a focus on the epidemic of low testosterone that has rendered modern men noticeably less masculine than their counterparts just a few decades ago. This epidemic may even, if some scientists are to be believed, be putting the very continuation of the species at risk.
While numerous studies have substantiated in detail the clear relationship between having less than optimal testosterone levels and a wide variety of ailments, including obesity, depression, erectile dysfunction, fertility problems, diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s, as well as reduced muscle mass, one aspect of testosterone science that either goes largely uncommented or is subject to a much less thorough treatment is the relationship between testosterone levels and male behaviour.
Of course the stereotypes of the ‘roid rager’ and pumped-up young man suggest to most people that more testosterone simply results in more undesirable male behaviour – ‘toxic masculinity’, if you will – but the truth is that scientific studies are beginning to present a more nuanced picture of the relationship of the master male hormone to male behaviour.
Testosterone and Honesty
A psychopath because he has high T, or high T because he’s a psychopath?
While it is true that psychopaths have been shown to have higher testosterone levels, for instance, and increased testosterone has been linked to aggressive, risky behaviour and posturing, such studies rarely address the question of causality in a satisfying way. Is it the increased testosterone that is causing the psychopathy or not? Or is there some other mechanism at work?
At least two studies have tried to address the causal relationship between testosterone and moral behaviour in a rigorous way.
Study Number One
Lead author of the study, Dr Matthias Wibral
The first study dates from 2012 and was carried out at the University of Bonn, before being published in the prestigious journal Plos One.
“The disadvantage of many studies is, however, that they only correlate their subjects’ testosterone level with their behaviour,” explained the lead author Dr. Matthias Wibral. “For testosterone does not only influence behaviour; behaviour, in turn, also influences hormone levels.” Such an approach, using correlation, can only demonstrate statistical links, not causality.
A total of 91 healthy men were used for the study. Half of them were treated with the application of testosterone gel to their skin. The next day, the blood testosterone levels of these men were checked to ensure they were indeed higher than those of the other half of the test subjects, who received only a placebo gel. Nobody knew who had or hadn’t been administered the testosterone gel, in order to prevent behaviour from potentially being affected.
Next came a series of experiments designed to test the behaviour of the participants. The subjects played games of dice in which they were able to cheat to increase their scores and thus the amount of money they would receive. “Due to the separate booths, nobody knew whether they were entering their real scores into the computer, or higher ones in order to get more money.”
However, the scientists were able to determine later whether the various test subjects had cheated or not, using statistical methods.
By comparing the results of the two groups, the scientists were able to show that the test subjects with the higher testosterone levels had lied less than the subjects who had had the placebo gel administered.
According to one of the researchers, ‘This result clearly contradicts the one-dimensional approach that testosterone results in anti-social behavior.’ The authors hypothesise that the increased testosterone may result in a greater sense of pride, meaning that the subjects with higher testosterone were less willing to ‘jeopardize [their] feeling of self-worth’ for just a small amount of money.
Art imitating life
The second, more recent, study, from the University of Austin, Texas demonstrates in a different manner the apparently paradoxical action of increased testosterone on moral behaviour. In this case, the researchers used a variation of the good old fashioned trolley experiment for their investigation.
Instead of a trolley dilemma, where the subject has the choice to pull a lever and redirect a trolley to another track, causing the death of fewer people than they had not pulled the lever, the subjects were put in 24 situations that tested whether they had a preference for utilitarian thinking (i.e. acting in the interest of the greatest possible good) or deontological thinking (i.e. acting on principle, in respect of moral norms). One half of the 200 participants were given testosterone, and the other half were given a placebo.
“The study was designed to test whether testosterone directly influences moral judgments and how,” said one of the researchers. “Our design also allowed us to examine three independent aspects of moral judgment, including sensitivity to consequences, sensitivity to moral norms and general preference for action or inaction.”
While other studies have suggested that testosterone increases lead to stronger utilitarian preferences, the researchers found that those administered the testosterone displayed a much more nuanced attention to moral norms than utilitarian considerations.
Interestingly, participant with high natural levels of testosterone showed less consideration for moral norms. The researchers believe that this is a reflection of the fact that people with particular personality traits tend to have more testosterone (as we’ve seen in the case of pyschopaths). But the evidence from the addition of the exogenous testosterone shows that it is not the testosterone necessarily that is causing reduced sensitivity to moral norms – in fact, probably the opposite.
Well, so what?
Don’t make the mistake of confusing being ‘harmless’ with being good
It stands to reason – or at least it doesn’t offend common sense – that a man who feels more secure in his masculinity is probably less likely to behave badly, and the two studies mentioned above do go some way towards substantiating this, while also leaving us in no doubt that the relationship between biological factors and behaviour is complicated, even before we begin to consider other factors like environmental and social causes.
Clearly, increasing your testosterone levels will affect the way that you feel, and changes to the way that you feel will affect the way you behave in the world. Just visit Reddit and look at any one of a myriad of positive testimonies from low T men who’ve gone on TRT, for instance.
If there’s hope for R*tardMcChucklef*cks, there’s hope for us all
If you want to know whether you’ve got low T, read our article on the subject. Here at Herculean Strength, we’ve already offered a number of articles on what you can do to begin increasing your T levels and become the best, fittest version of you, and we’ll be continuing that series with further articles.
We also hope soon to begin selling home testing kits that allow you to test your hormone levels. Watch this space!
In the meantime, we have several articles on how you can boost your T levels without having to spend a penny. We have written at length on various foods and lifestyle choices that can disrupt your endocrine system.
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