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How short-term increases in testosterone change men’s thinking style

07 September 2017

The hot-headed “macho man”, who acts first and thinks later, has long been popular in movies. Now there’s psychological evidence to support it.

In a guest post on our Research Digest blog, Emma Young looks at a new paper published in the journal Psychological Science.

Written by a team from Caltech, the University of Pennsylvania, Western University and the ZRT Laboratory in Oregon, it finds that a short-term rise in testosterone – as might occur when in the presence of an attractive potential mate or during competition – shifts the way men think. It encourages them to rely on quick, intuitive, and generally less accurate, judgements, rather than engaging in careful, more deliberate thought.

“Our results demonstrate a clear and robust causal effect of testosterone on human cognition and decision making,” the researchers write. “The influence of testosterone on the Cognitive Reflection Test, alongside its lack of effect on the arithmetic control task, suggests that testosterone decreases … the probability of engaging in slow and effortful cognitive processes but keeps the capacity to perform them intact."

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