Re: Mazur 10. (conclusions)

From: Lyons Tim (
Date: Thu May 28 1998 - 19:09:13 BST


their main conclusions are as follows

> Perinatally and during puberty, the effects of T on behaviour appear
> to work primarily through long-term reorganisations of the body and
> neurohormonal system, and only secondarily through short-term
> activation.

these are the two times when T is increased in order to cause
specific changes to the body. this could account for why people are
so moody around these two periods of life.

> By the end of puberty, usually around age 16 years, the
> body is nearly at its adult form so behaviour is affected primarily by
> the level of T circulating in the bloodstream which can activate
> steroid receptors.

as this is the other hypothesised effect of T it can be assumed that
if its not making you grow, its affecting your behaviour

> We doubt that circulating T directly affects human aggression
> high or rising T encourages dominant behaviour intended to achieve or
> maintain high status

there's plenty of evidence to support this distinction, for example
the prison study where both the aggressive and the non-aggressively
dominant prisoners had higher T than the non-aggressive, non-dominant

> In military, school, or legal settings, high or rising T encourages
> actions conventionally regarded as rebellious, antisocial, or even
> criminal.

for example average T of prisoners is consistently found to be higher
than that of the general population. T has also been found to
correlate with such things as: "childhood truancy, trouble as an adult
 on the job and with the law, marital disruption, drug and alcohol
abuse, violent behaviour, and military AWOL "

> paper-and-pencil self reports of aggressive/hostile moods or
> personalities have not been generally successful in demonstrating
> relationships to T

they are often found not to correlate with actual violent or dominant
behaviour. possibly because violent/dominant people's perception of
their violence/dominance is not necessarily going to be entirely

> more direct indicators or inventories of behaviour, studies in both
> prisons and free settings fairly consistently show significant
> correlations between T and dominating behaviours (with or without
> aggressiveness), and between T and diverse antisocial or rebellious
> actions.

as in the previously mentioned examples

> Although we regard the correlation between T and dominant or
> antisocial behaviour as well supported, heightened T has not been
> established as a cause of these behaviours.

however they hypothesise that it does in fact cause these behaviour
types, by means of a reciprocal mode of action, which goes something
like this:

> - T rises shortly before a competitive event, as if anticipating the
> challenge.
> - after the conclusion of competition, T in winners rises
> relative to that of losers.
> - T also rises after status elevations, and it falls after status
> demotions.

these results have been found for athletics matches, chess matches,
laboratory contests of reaction time and in people watching the world
cup final on tv.

> These effects require the presence of appropriate mood changes

on some occasions when these results where not obtained the
experimentor put it down to the subjects not taking the competition
seriously (i.e. the judo and computer game examples mentioned)

> Limited evidence suggests that this pattern of T responses is
> specific to men.

in the computer game example the females didnt show the hypothesised
effects either before or after the game.

the evolutionary explanation of the reciprocal model goes something
like this:

> - People in face-to-face groups form themselves into fairly
> consistent status hierarchies.
> - Usually ranks are allocated co-operatively,
> - sometimes people compete for high rank in dominance contests
> where each contestant tries to out-stress the other until one
> concedes,
> - high or rising T, by encouraging dominant behaviour, induces men
> to compete for high status.
> - The experience of winning or successfully defending high rank
> boosts T,
> - which in turn encourages more dominant behaviour
> - The experience of losing depresses T, encouraging a switch from
> dominant to deferential behaviour.

this makes good sense because if you win you may need to defend
whatever it is that youve won against someone else, and if you lose
it encourages you not to risk a subsequent contest which you may also
be likely to lose.

> This mechanism explains the momentum associated with winning or
> losing streaks.

if T does indeed "improve coordination, cognitive performance, and
concentration" as they said herrmann, klaiber and kemper found that
it does.

> A study which can distinguish between the basal and reciprocal
> models was carried out among 2,100 male Air Force veterans who
> received four medical examinations over a ten year period. Among
> these men, T levels fall and remain low with marriage, and rise with
> divorce These results, although limited in scope, favour the
> reciprocal model over the basal model.

as denenberg pointed out with so many participants, even a very small
correlation will be significant, so the results found are probably
due to a variety of factors of which divorce could be a relatively
unimportant one. especially as the T measurements were taken up to
three years after divorce.

> The basal model, on the other hand, better explains the propensity
> for divorce among men who were initially high in T.

as mentioned by cashdan this result could actually be
due to men with higher T seeking more sexual variety, a possibility
which is supported by some literature on females, but has not been
directly tested for males.

> The reliable association of high T with antisocial behaviours,
> including marital disruption and violent criminality, raises an
> interesting puzzle:
> - These negative behaviours foster downward social mobility,
> - so under the basal model, we should expect an accumulation of high T
> - men in the lower ranks of society correlations between T and various
> - measures of socio-economic status are significantly negative
> - But they are slight in magnitude
> - (leaving aside honour subcultures), we find little concentration of
> men with high T in the lower classes.

"why is this not the case?", i hear you ask.


> One possibility is that the downward flow of high T men who are
> antisocial is nearly balanced by an upward flow of high T men who
> are prosocial. This hypothetical stream of prosocial high-T men
> remains invisible to us, because past studies have used as subjects
> mostly working class men or convicts,

yep, that figures

> The nearly uniform distribution of T across social classes is less
> puzzling under the reciprocal model,
> dominance contests probably occur nearly as frequently among elites
> as in the working class,
> Therefore, T responses to challenge, and to winning and losing,
> should be distributed fairly evenly across classes.

that figures too, so (would you believe it) it looks like they might
both be viable, with the reciprocal model superimposed over the basal

> The applicability of one model or the other would be elucidated by
> studying the relationship of T to behaviour among upper class men who
> have favourable social opportunities and strong incentives for
> prosocial behaviour.

the expected result from this experiment would be that the higher
ranking men and/or anti-social and/or antagonistic and/or narcisistic
men would have a higher basal T level. Also everyones T level would
be expected to rise before competitions, i.e. bidding for accounts,
and either rise or fall when the result is found out.

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