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.


Comments for this post are closed