From Science Daily:
Testosterone Makes Us Less Cooperative and More Egocentric
Testosterone makes us overvalue our own opinions at the expense of cooperation, research from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL (University College London) has found. The findings may have implications for how group decisions are affected by dominant individuals.
Problem solving in groups can provide benefits over individual decisions as we are able to share our information and expertise. However, there is a tension between cooperation and self-orientated behaviour: although groups might benefit from a collective intelligence, collaborating too closely can lead to an uncritical groupthink, ending in decisions that are bad for all.
Attempts to understand the biological mechanisms behind group decision making have tended to focus on the factors that promote cooperation, and research has shown that people given a boost of the hormone oxytocin tend to be cooperative. Now, in a study recently published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers have shown that the hormone testosterone has the opposite effect -- it makes people act less cooperatively and more egocentrically.
Dr Nick Wright and colleagues at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL carried out a series of tests using 17 pairs of female volunteers* who had previously never met. The test took place over two days, spaced a week apart. On one of the days, both volunteers in each pair were given a testosterone supplement; on the other day, they were given a placebo.
During the experiment, both women sat in the same room and viewed their own screen. Both individuals saw exactly the same thing. First, in each trial they were shown two images, one of which contained a high-contrast target -- and their job was to decide individually which image contained the target. If their individual choices agreed, they received feedback and moved on to the next trial. However, if they disagreed, they were asked to collaborate and discuss with their partner to reach a joint decision. One of the pair then input this joint decision.
The researchers found that, as expected, cooperation enabled the group to perform much better than the individuals alone when individuals had received only the placebo. But, when given a testosterone supplement, the benefit of cooperation was markedly reduced. In fact, higher levels of testosterone were associated with individuals behaving egocentrically and deciding in favour of their own selection over their partner's.
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