Testosterone makes men more honest

The more testosterone there is circulating in a man’s body, the more honest he’s likely to be. Even when he knows that no one is likely to find out that he is lying, he’s more likely to tell the truth than a man with less testosterone in his body. Researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany write about this in PLoS One.

The more testosterone there is circulating in a man’s body, the more honest he’s likely to be. Even when he knows that no one is likely to find out that he is lying, he’s more likely to tell the truth than a man with less testosterone in his body. Researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany write about this in PLoS One.

Until recently researchers have tended to emphasise the negative psychological effects of testosterone, such as a reduction in empathy and increased aggressive tendencies. [Biol Psychiatry. 1999 Feb 1;45(3):254-60] But it seems that testosterone also has positive psychological effects. Ten years ago, for example, psychologists at Georgia State University published a study in which a group of firemen with high testosterone levels were more likely to do their work well. [Journal of Research in Personality Volume 37, Issue 2, April 2003, Pages 107–115.]

In 1997 the same psychologists published a study on the relationship between behaviour and the testosterone level of female prisoners. [Psychosom Med. 1997 Sep-Oct;59(5):477-80.] While women with relatively high levels of testosterone in their blood were often more violent, the prison guards surprisingly often described women with low testosterone levels as being ‘sly’ and ‘unreliable’.

The Germans decided to study this aspect of testosterone in more depth. Testosterone is linked to pride and status seeking, they reasoned. Proud people lie less often. So subjects should become more honest if you give them testosterone – for example by rubbing the contents of a sachet of Testogel into their skin, which would supply them with 50 mg testosterone.

The more testosterone there is circulating in a man’s body, the more honest he’s likely to be. Even when he knows that no one is likely to find out that he is lying, he’s more likely to tell the truth than a man with less testosterone in his body. Researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany write about this in PLoS One.
The researchers administered the testosterone to just under 50 male subjects. Twenty hours later they got the subjects to throw a dice and record their scores on a computer. The higher their score, the more money they earned.

A score of 6 earned nothing. The researchers didn’t check whether the men were cheating.

A similar-sized control group were given a placebo, and had to go through the dice routine too.

The men that had been given testosterone had an average level of 7.78 nanograms per millilitre during the experiment. The level in the placebo-group men was 6.79 nanograms per millilitre.

The men in the testosterone group won 3.33 euros per throw, the men in the placebo group won 4.18 euros per throw.

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The figure above shows that the testosterone men said more often that they had won nothing or only a few euros, and less often that they had scored the maximum 5 euros.

“Our main finding is a lower incidence of self-serving lies in the testosterone group”, the Germans write. “We observe this result in a setup where subjects cannot be caught lying. To the best of our knowledge this is the first piece of evidence on a causal relationship between testosterone administration and prosocial behavior when actions are not observable to others.”

Testosterone administration reduces lying in men.

Wibral M, Dohmen T, Klingmüller D, Weber B, Falk A.

Source

Department of Economics, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany.

Abstract

Lying is a pervasive phenomenon with important social and economic implications. However, despite substantial interest in the prevalence and determinants of lying, little is known about its biological foundations. Here we study a potential hormonal influence, focusing on the steroid hormone testosterone, which has been shown to play an important role in social behavior. In a double-blind placebo-controlled study, 91 healthy men (24.32±2.73 years) received a transdermal administration of 50 mg of testosterone (n=46) or a placebo (n=45). Subsequently, subjects participated in a simple task, in which their payoff depended on the self-reported outcome of a die-roll. Subjects could increase their payoff by lying without fear of being caught. Our results show that testosterone administration substantially decreases lying in men. Self-serving lying occurred in both groups, however, reported payoffs were significantly lower in the testosterone group (p<0.01). Our results contribute to the recent debate on the effect of testosterone on prosocial behavior and its underlying channels.

PMID: 23071635 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE] PMCID: PMC346862

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23071635

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