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December 15, 2009

Science: Testosterone getting a Bad Rap.

Since the dawn of womynkind, testosterone has been blamed as the root of all manner of evils. From mongering wars that claimed millions, to leaving the toilet lid up resulting in numberless midnight bum-dunks into the icy porcelain depths.

(blockbuster story after the fold)


A new study on the topic has been published by valiant scientists that managed to overcome the efforts of female scientists intent on killing it in peer review. (Which wasn't that hard of course. Female scientists? Everyone knows that is as mythical a prospect as the idea that the Sun plays any substantial part in the Earth's climate.*)

The study, which is published in the journal Nature, sought to test this using a common psychological exercise known as the ultimatum game. In this game, a player is given a sum of money, say 10, to share with a second player, offering as much or as little as he or she wants.

If the offer is accepted, the pot is distributed that way, but if it is refused, neither player gets any cash. Players who are very aggressive, offering just 2 or 3, stand to benefit financially, but also risk coming away with nothing.

Before playing the game, a group of 60 women was given either a testosterone supplement or a placebo. We wanted to verify how the hormone affects social behaviour, said Christoph Eisenegger, of the University of Zurich. If one were to believe the common opinion, we would expect subjects who received testosterone to adopt aggressive, egocentric, and risky strategies regardless of the possibly negative consequences on the negotiation process.

The subjects who were given testosterone supplements in fact made much fairer offers in the ultimatum game than those given a placebo, suggesting that the hormone does not promote aggression in these circumstances, but co-operation.

Of particular note, those subjects that believed they had been given testosterone acted in a manner generally considered more "manly", regardless of which supplement they received.

It appears that it is not testosterone itself that induces aggressiveness, but rather the myth surrounding the hormone, said Michael Naef, of Royal Holloway, University of London, an author of the study.

Author, and, I might add, hero to mankind.

So stand proud, male morons! Take your testosterone by the hand, and wave it with honor. In fact, share as much of it as possible, as it can only make the world a better place.

* I can write jokes like that, because I've been stewed in the cerebral and testosterone rich gravy of Ace's.. erm, my brain for many years.

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posted by Ace at 11:26 AM

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