The hormone testosterone is said to influence male behavior. And this influence often centers on aggression and anti-social behavior.
But contemporary theorists have proposed that it instead enhances behaviors involved in obtaining and maintaining a high social status.
This theory states that although testosterone selectively increases status-relevant aggressive behaviors, such as responses to provocation,]it also promotes non-aggressive behaviors, such as generosity toward others, when they are appropriate for increasing status.
‘Testosterone does not simply enhance general emotional responsiveness but has a more restricted effect that is consistent with increasing status-enhancing aggressive and non-aggressive behaviors like generosity.’
For testing the proposed hypothesis, 40 healthy young males were selected and were injected with testosterone enanthate or a placebo in a double-blind, randomized study design.
Participants were asked to play a version of the Ultimatum Game that was modified in such a way that they had to accept or reject an offer from the proposer. The participants then had the opportunity to punish or reward the proposer at a proportionate cost to themselves.
The results showed that the participants treated with testosterone were more likely to punish the proposer and that higher testosterone levels were specifically associated with increased punishment of proposers
who made unfair offers, indicating that testosterone indeed triggers aggressive responses to provocation.
On the other hand, when participants administered testosterone received large offers, they were more likely to reward the proposer
and also chose rewards of greater magnitude.
This shows that increased generosity in the absence of provocation indicates that testosterone can also cause pro-social behaviors that are appropriate for increasing status.
These findings provide a more causal evidence for a more complex role for testosterone in driving status-enhancing behaviors in males.