A good level of testosterone is something that generally makes men proud (and rightly so). Testosterone is responsible for many healthy functions of the male body such as proper bone mass, muscle mass and strength, production of red blood cells, and last but certainly not least, the bucking up of sperm production and the sex drive.
Without adequate testosterone, men can be infertile, troubled by erectile dysfunction, depression, and other serious ailments. But a high testosterone level is a mixed blessing—a double-edged sword if you will. Past studies have shown that testosterone is responsible for violent tendencies, and a now a new study says men with higher levels of this hormone are prone to making rash, impulsive decisions.
That’s the finding of Dr. Gideon Nave at the University of Pennsylvania and Dr. Amos Nadler at Western University in Ontario, published in the journal Psychological Science. In their study, 243 male subjects were asked to do a mathematical/cognitive test. Some of them were given a dose of testosterone gel, and some a placebo before doing the test. The test included tricky questions to which answers at first glimpse seemed obvious, but which required further reflection to get right. (All subjects were tested for mathematical skills prior to the study to ensure that everyone had equal skills.)
The finding? “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.”
According to the researchers, the results “demonstrate a clear and robust causal effect of (testosterone) on human cognition and decision-making,” and suggest a link between testosterone and increasing confidence in people.
But the findings also raise questions about potential negative effects (i.e., making rash, impulsive decisions) of the growing testosterone-replacement therapy given to middle-aged men as a remedy for a declined sex drive. So, if we can extrapolate the findings of this study into the strictly tongue-in-cheek speculative realm, they do also provide a possible explanation for a sight that is so commonplace today: a 20-something trophy girlfriend/wife in an expensive sports car driven by a visibly middle-aged-plus man.