More testosterone makes men more likely to act first and think later, new research finds.
Giving men a dose of testosterone reduced the amount of ‘cognitive reflection’ they engaged in.
After the testosterone, they didn’t bother stopping to think if their gut reaction made sense.
In other words, they decided to shoot first and ask questions later.
Professor Colin Camerer, who led the study, said:
“What we found was the testosterone group was quicker to make snap judgments on brain teasers where your initial guess is usually wrong.
The testosterone is either inhibiting the process of mentally checking your work or increasing the intuitive feeling that ‘I’m definitely right.'”
For the study, 243 men were either given a testosterone gel or a placebo.
They then did a series of questions that tested their ability to think a little deeper.
Here’s one for you to try:
“A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total.
The bat costs $1 more than the ball.
How much does the ball cost?”
The snap answer is that the ball costs 10 cents.
But a moment’s reflection reveals this can’t be the right answer.
Since $1.10 + 10 cents is $1.20 and the first line of the puzzle says the bat and ball cost $1.10 together.
Time for a rethink?
The answer is the ball costs 5 cents.
That’s because $1.05 for the bat plus 5 cents for the ball is $1.10.
Men given testosterone got 20% fewer answers right.
They also answered more quickly, despite being under no time pressure and having a financial incentive for getting the answers right.
The explanation for the effect of testosterone could be down to its confidence boosting and social dominance effect, Professor Camerer said:
“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.”
And what does all this mean for men having testosterone-replacement therapy in mid-life?
“If men want more testosterone to increase sex drive, are there other effects?
Do these men become too mentally bold and thinking they know things they don’t?”
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The study was published in the journal Psychological Science (Nave et al., 2017).