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Researchers Suggest That Testosterone Promotes Honesty in Men

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Researchers Suggest That Testosterone Promotes Honesty in Men

The results of a new study show that testosterone stimulates positive social behavior through the increase of honesty in male subjects. The hormone has already been associated with higher levels of aggression and criminality. According to a research team from Germany, testosterone could influence positive social behavior, in addition to its already known influences on muscle and libido.

The study was recently published in the online journal PLOS ONE. The lead author of the study, Dr Matthias Wibral, notes that “The disadvantage of many studies is, however, that they only correlate their subjects’ testosterone level with their behavior”, whilst adding that his current paper is a statistical one and not a clinical study that would provide the causes of this behavior. On a side note, Dr Wibral also said that behavior itself influences the levels of testosterone.



91 healthy subjects participated in the experimental study. 46 of the patients received a skin-applied testosterone gel, whilst the other 45 subjects received a placebo gel. The research team investigated the causes and effects of the hormone in male patients. The study was double-blind and randomized, therefore neither the subjects, nor the doctors, had any idea about who received placebo and who received the actual testosterone gel.

After applying the gel, subjects participated in an easy game. Each subject was asked to play a game of dice whilst being inside an enclosed booth. Based on their score, they would be rewarded with a sum of money. The research team noted that this game was conceived in a certain way, in order to allow the subjects to lie. “Due to the separate booths, nobody knew whether they were entering their real scores into the computer, or higher ones in order to get more money”, said Dr Wibral, whilst adding that researchers were able to detect cheaters based on statistics, because the probability for each face of the dice to occur is the same. In statistics, an outlier is an observation that is numerically distant from the rest of the data, thus the subjects who scored higher numbers were considered as cheaters.

The comparison of the two groups revealed that the participants which received the testosterone gel were more likely to tell the truth. Dr Armin Falk, the co-author of the study, notes that the results of their study indicates that previous research which linked higher levels of testosterone to an anti-social behavior had a wrong one-dimensional approach.

The research team noted that “Lying is a pervasive phenomenon with important social and economic implications”, however, there is very little information regarding the biological foundations of lying. There are multiple studies that examine the implications and effects of lying in economic situations, however only a few studies were directed towards understanding the biological foundations.

“In this regard, this study has allowed us to make a big step forward”, concluded Dr Falk.

Abstract here.