How Testosterone and Social Context Influence Behavior

Written by Professor Kean, Updated on March 7th, 2024
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Often, the best way to consider how Testosterone affects the human mind is to observe its influence on other animals.

This doesn't always correlate perfectly, but it can give us valuable information regarding how Testosterone motivates how we think and how we act.

Testosterone is routinely connected with aggressive behavior. This may often be true, but Testosterone can contribute to different outcomes depending on the social context of the subject. This means that Testosterone can have dramatically different effects under alternate circumstances.

Examining How Gerbils Respond to Testosterone in Different Scenarios

The effect of context on Testosterone and behavior is clearly illustrated in research performed by Drs. Richard Thompson and Aubrey Kelly.

In a beautiful coincidence, these two doctors studying love and aggression happen to be married. They both work at Emory University.

This study uses Mongolian gerbils because of their unique mating habits. The rodents are strongly monogamous, and males display intense territoriality in defense of their mates.

It's easy to hypothesize that Testosterone is a central motivating factor for the male's protective nature. Still, Thompson and Kelly sought to explore the influence in greater detail and in different scenarios.

The male Mongolian gerbils were delivered a surge of Testosterone in different contexts to see how they would react. In one case, the gerbils were given Testosterone when with their mate. In the second context, Testosterone was received in the presence of an unknown intruder.

Testosterone Influences Mating and Territorial Behavior

As we know, Testosterone is highly influential in both romance and aggression. When the male gerbil experienced a surge of Testosterone alone with their bonded partner, the hormone actually caused them to show more affection and made them less antagonistic toward unwanted guests.

On the other hand, if the male gerbil were exposed to high Testosterone while the intruder was in front of them, this would trigger aggression and territorial defense.

This study is exciting because it shows how our brains and hormones interact, creating a behavioral outcome. Testosterone alone doesn't lead to aggression or affection. Environmental circumstances influence the expression of hormones like Testosterone, and our interpretation of the situation can lead to different outcomes.

This is as true in the Mongolian gerbil as it is for humans, even though the consequences and complexities are far different. When men suffer from Low-T, it changes how they interpret and interact with the world. Testosterone Therapy can literally change the way that men see the world.

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