A Dose of Testosterone Makes Men More Impulsive

Cliff Jumping

The male sex hormone testosterone has been blamed for guys’ bad behavior for a long time—everything from high levels leading to increased violent tendencies to low levels making you depressed and not able to get it up. Now amped up testosterone levels have been linked to guys making bad judgments, which is not so shocking.

Recent research that appeared in the journal Psychological Science has shown that upping T levels can make men more likely to make judgments without ruminating on whether the decision is the right one. The study featured 243 males, some of whom got a dose of testosterone gel or a placebo before they were tasked with a cognitive test. The test featured questions that, at first glance, seemed straight forward, but contained twists that, upon further reflection, would become more obvious. Participants were given $1 for each correct answer and an additional $2 if they got all of them right.

Researchers found that the guys who got the T gel answered, on average, about 20% of the questions incorrectly, and that they gave those wrong answers faster, along with the correct answers at a slower pace than the non-testosterone subjects. A basic math test that was administered before the cognitive test showed no difference between the groups.

“What we found was the testosterone group was quicker to make snap judgments on brain teasers where your initial guess is usually wrong,” said study co-author Colin Camerer, Ph.D., a professor at Caltech. “The testosterone is either inhibiting the process of mentally checking your work or increasing the intuitive feeling that ‘I’m definitely right.’ We think it works through confidence enhancement. If you’re more confident, you’ll feel like you’re right and will not have enough self-doubt to correct mistakes.”

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