Testosterone and economic behavior: some new results

The story starts off with this:

Women given testosterone for a month were no more likely than women not receiving the hormone to engage in risky financial decisions, according to researchers in Sweden. The findings could suggest that women are a safer pair of hands on the stock-market trading floor than men – or throw into doubt earlier findings about the effect of the hormone on men.

A spate of recent studies have found correlations between testosterone levels and risky behaviour in men, including one that found that male securities traders with more testosterone in their saliva made riskier financial decisions.

But now a team led by Magnus Johannesson, an economist at the Stockholm School of Economics, has found no such effects in a group of 200 post-menopausal women. The women were administered testosterone, oestrogen or a placebo for four weeks and asked to play a series of economic games that measure the player's propensity to take risks, their trust and their willingness to share resources.

One researcher notes:

"I'm relatively pessimistic of finding an effect in men," Johannesson says. He writes in the paper that it is possible that previously published links between testosterone and risk-taking are "spurious". Studies that do not find a correlation between sex hormone levels and economic behaviour may simply have a harder time getting published. "Negative correlation results don't get published," he says.

The original research is here.  I would simply urge caution in interpreting results from this area.  We're not yet in a "safe zone" of knowing what replicable results look like.


Possibly, early high-t causes both later high-t and risk-taking personalities. If so, adding testosterone later wouldn't affect personality the same way.

Way too many variables in such a complex system to expect that the manipulation of ONE can give any reasonable replicable results.

Before investing any serious thought in this research stream, one might want to consider that it actually says nothing about actual economic behavior. What it does is study the the behavior of people games. Nor is the research limited to people who regularly or seriously play the game, have any personal stake in the game or even really know how the game is played.

There is a massive problem of validity in trying to generalize in this sort of research. Even if the research itself was flawless, one cannot in anyway generalize the findings to actual economic behavior or risk taking. Its intellectually irresponsible to suggest it does.

So the result of the study in a nut shell is post menopausal women (both on or off testosterone)are more risk adverse than young men. Wow, who knew.

What a horrible study. So many variables. How do they measure the effect of testosterone on development of personality traits early on? And one month of testosterone is enough to change your behavior? Come on....

i have a solution to the high compensation issue!

let people make as much money as they want,
but only after castrating them.

Excellent information !

Why don't you ask the women who are taking the oral supplements? I never read any lit. that would suggest risky behavior could be a problem with this supplement. However, I have been taking it for 6 months, almost lost my house and my finances are not yet even begun to recover. I have wondered what has happened to the "old me" and when did I become so reckless? Thanks for bringing this to light. I am stopping this supplement immediately. I cannot believe I did not dig deeper. Ladies I still have my ovaries, uterus and my levels where slightly low, that is why it was started. I am taking 1.75 mg a day compounded at a special pharm. I am 36 yo and have had two children. I am seeing things more clearly since reading this article.

I think women do better when work is done to balance estrogen and progesterone levels. If testosterone is given to women, it should be given in very small doses, and testing needs to be done on a regular basis.

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