A man’s impulsiveness, or tendency to act first and think afterward, is directly related to how much testosterone he’s got pumping through his body, according to a new study by researchers from Caltech, the Wharton School, Western University and ZRT Laboratory.
So, the same thing that makes certain men so driven, musclebound and confident may also be pushing them to make snap judgments, rather than think things through.
The study tested the belief that higher levels of the male sex hormone increased the likelihood that men would trust their gut, rather than wait for their brain to weigh in before making a decision. Men who received doses of testosterone scored worse on a cognitive reflection test designed to measure one’s tendency to ignore the “gut” feeling and think further about what the best course of action may be, than those who received a placebo.
“What we found was the testosterone group was quicker to make snap judgments on brain teasers where your initial guess is usually wrong,” Caltech’s Colin Camerer told Science Daily. “The testosterone is either inhibiting the process of mentally checking your work or increasing the intuitive feeling that ‘I’m definitely right.'”
A total of 243 men participated in the study, applying a testosterone gel or a placebo gel before taking the tests, which included questions like the following:
“A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?”
If your first answer was 10 cents, you’re not alone.
That’s what most people hit on initially. But think further (AKA cognitively reflect), and you might realize that in order for the bat to cost $1 more than the ball and the total to still equal $1.10, the ball must only cost five cents. This is the type of question men who were given the testosterone dose got wrong more often (20 per cent more often).
Researchers suspect that this is because the presence of testosterone also increases drive for social status and therefore confidence in people.
“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,” Camerer says.
This may have provided an advantage way back in our evolution as humans, but in today’s day and age, a testosterone-riddled, quick-to-react know-it-all is mostly just annoying…nice biceps tho.