Stop me if you’ve heard this one…two guys walk into a psychology experiment. They get their picture taken, give a saliva sample, and then are thrown in a steel cage to fight to the death for the affections of an attractive female. Ok, that last part is a bit of a stretch. In the actual psychology experiment, both guys were given the chance to simultaneously have a videotaped chat with a highly attractive female. The guys were told that the interaction was a competition between the two of them to see who the girl liked more and that she would pick the “winner” after their chat. In reality, the joke was on the guys because the girl was part of the experiment (i.e., a confederate).
Researchers set up this clever situation in order to examine whether the guys’ testosterone, or “T levels,” influenced their behaviors in the face of competition for a desirable female. Researchers analyzed the videotapes to determine the extent of each guy’s dominant behaviors (e.g., talking about himself, being assertive, taking charge of the conversation, etc.).
The results revealed that guys with higher T levels before the competition displayed more dominance behaviors during the chat and reported less liking of their counterpart after the competition. There was also a tendency for the female confederate to report “clicking” more with those who had higher T. Testosterone’s ability to influence behaviors during and after the competition was due in part to how dominant the guys viewed themselves initially. Specifically, the self-reported dominant guys showed a link between higher T levels and more of their own dominant behaviors and less dominant behaviors from their counterpart during the competitive chat with the girl. When guys did not view themselves as dominant initially, these associations were not evident.
Ultimately, this study shows that high testosterone relates to mating behaviors such as aggressively pursuing a woman by exhibiting dominance in conversation and trash talking the other guy afterward. Perhaps most importantly, because these behaviors are effective in getting the attractive woman to “click” with them, they may lead to mating success.
Slatcher, R. B., Mehta, P. H., & Josephs, R. A. (2011). Testosterone and self-reported dominance interact to influence human mating behavior. Social Psychological and Personality Science. Published online before print February 28, 2011.
Dr. Gary Lewandowski – Science of Relationships articles | Website
Dr. Lewandowski’s research explores the self’s role in romantic relationships focusing on attraction, relationship initiation, love, infidelity, relationship maintenance, and break-up. Recognized as one of the Princeton Review’s Top 300 Professors, he has also authored dozens of publications for both academic and non-academic audiences.