The Seductive Allure of Dichotomies.
A Response to Mazur and Booth.
Original Response Article by Scott Christensen and S. Marc Breedlove
Department Psychology 3210 Tolman Hall University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-1650 Breedsm@socrates.berkeley.edu
-A response to this article by Charles Musselwhite.
Presenting two alternatives as if they were mutually exclusive may
leave some readers with the impression that there are no individual
differences in basal androgen secretion, or that any such differences
must be dwarfed by the influence of experience.
- But are we really all that stupid. Is Christensen the only person
to ever have thought that the two could be combined - I don't think
It is possible that basal differences in androgen secretion could
also contribute to dominance.
- I think that Christensen is trying to hang on to a very loose
thread here. How is the basal level of any androgen, such as
testosterone measured. Psychology and medicine has known for years
that when samples of bodily fluids are taken or functioning of the
bodily parts monitored, be it through spit, blood samples, heart rate
or blood pressure monitoring or just observation, then a false
reading will be given. Heightened anxiety, not only about the process
of measurement, but also about the results or anxiety about
expectations mean that levels measured will not be a real and actual
result. Consequently basal levels can never really be found.
Furthermore this would not matter if everyone responded the same
but we are all individuals and have different anxieties about
having our bodies measured in some way or another due to past
experiences or how individuals may appraise the situation and
results. This means that even measuring a basal level over a long
period of time and taking an average will not give a true basal
level. Therefore people will have different levels and these may not
bear any relation to their actual (if there is such a thing) basal
It seems easy to imagine that there might be genetic influences upon
basal androgen secretion within each sex.
- Yes but this is not in fact true logic. There will be differences
between the sexes but this does not necessarily mean that there has
to be differences within sexes (although there may well be).
With the same "basal" levels of androgen secretion, it is possible
that some men show a more pronounced response (i.e., a greater change
in androgen secretion ) to a given experience than do other men.
- Yes this may well be true, but why should this be. If another
factor (such as environmental factors or how people appraise
environmental situations and contacts) affects androgens then surely
the basal rate will have little if no effect at all on behaviour. So,
environmental factors are more important.
Some experiences, especially early in life, might affect subsequent
basal androgen secretion for many years, even for a lifetime.
- If basal androgen levels do affect behaviour then we still have no
logical reason for saying that the basal levels are innate. The basal
levels may well be influenced by the environment and how an
individual may interact with the environment. Early experiences are
typically mentioned since resaerch seems to suggest that basal levels
remain fairly constant throughout a person's life - but do they?
Against all stressors life has to throw at individuals? Other bodily
functioning does not remain as constant does it? Is there any way
(e.g. through exercise or relaxation technique or biofeedback
training for examples) that the basal rate of androgens can be
influenced? These sort of studies need to be looked at more clearly.
We need more data (oops sorry Gianni).
Individual differences in sensitivity to androgen.
- Yes this is very true it is once again untrue to say that high
levels of androgen in one person will make them feel or behave the
same as another since different individuals may be differently
sensatised to them. There may well be supressors or some kind of
'passive juice' that keeps the body from being too heavily influenced
by androgens. Furthermore, different people will interpret the
feelings of heightened androgen or testosterone in the body
differntly from others. How an individual behaves surely cannot be
totally down to androgens otherwise we become a slave to our bodily
functions. If we start believeing that it becomes an excuse for
behaviour or worse individuals feel a lack of control over their
behaviour and actions which as learned helplessness and clinical
depression studies show can be extremely bad for individuals and may
result in death.
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