T or F – Testosterone leads to Aggression?

April 30, 2019

Posted by andropique

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T or F – Testosterone leads to Aggression?

Our bodies contain various hormones, all that have very different jobs and purposes. Some hormones, like testosterone or estrogen, are more gender specific than others are. Testosterone is a very important hormone in the human body, especially in males.  Females do have a small amount of testosterone in their bodies, however it is not nearly as important in women as in men.  Testosterone in men rises during puberty, peaks during the late teen years, and finally levels off.  Around 30 years old, testosterone levels slightly decrease each year. Testosterone, in a male, is responsible for the production of body hair, a deeper voice, the promotion of muscle mass, and many other contributions throughout the body.  Today, we explore the question, is testosterone overload responsible for causing aggression in males?

For decades, people have been associating free testosterone production with aggressive-like behaviors. Testosterone was once thought to influence thoughts, verbal aggressiveness, anger, physical violence, competition and dominant behavior. A research study conducted in 1972 with 89 prison inmate participants.  Researchers studied levels of free testosterone in the saliva of each participant and the relationship between the testosterone hormone and aggression.  Researched showed that 10 out of 11 inmates with the highest free testosterone levels had committed the most violent crimes. Whereas 9 out of 11 who had committed non-violent crimes had the lowest free testosterone levels. Several studies conducted in this format using inmates as participants; however, this method had its limitations. Limitations included the population of people chosen and the sample size. A lot of research pertaining to testosterone levels and aggression at this time were based on self-report questionnaires, which was questionable in regards to the accuracy of aggression and its intensity.

Recent research studies show there is a weak correlation between testosterone and violence.  Studies now are using a more general population subjects versus inmate subjects. A researcher from the University of Texas at Austin suggested that “antisocial behaviors are related to high testosterone and are a function of the manner by which dominance is maintained in these groups.” In other words, if a research study was to be done in higher socioeconomic participants, they might find that testosterone is connected to dominance, not violence.

This information sheds light on the fact that testosterone is closer associated with dominance, not violence.  Hormones do not directly change someone’s behavior.  They influence the expression of a behavior in environmental and social contexts.  An example of this influence can be seen when winning a game, or beating another team or player.  The win could lead to an increase in free testosterone levels and in turn change the team or player’s attitude to one of celebration or even boasting.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, testosterone can also be lost.  Varying factors that can decrease your testosterone include age, weight gain, and disease.

Overall, there has been no relevant evidence that links higher levels of free testosterone to aggressive behaviors.  More recent studies show no correlation between testosterone and aggression.  Researchers tend to believe higher testosterone levels mean a person might be more dominate from a social standpoint, than a violent one.  The old point of view that higher testosterone leads to a raging hot head has proven itself false. Hormones do not cause or change behaviors, moreover influence the expression of a behavior in different environmental or social contexts.

References:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3693622/
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/strange-but-true-testosterone-alone-doesnt-cause-violence/

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