By Sy Mukherjee
July 5, 2018

Are you a man with a sudden hankering for a sports car, a fancy house, or other status symbols? Blame testosterone, a new study says.

The research published in the journal Nature had an intriguing methodology. More than 240 participants were split into two groups — one was given single doses of a topical testosterone gel, while the other was given placebo. Four hours later, the study subjects were assigned a battery of behavioral tasks and surveys.

The results were striking.

“[W]e find that administering testosterone increases men’s preference for status brands, compared to brands of similar perceived quality but lower perceived status,” wrote the authors. “Furthermore, testosterone increases positive attitudes toward positional goods when they are described as status-enhancing, but not when they are described as power-enhancing or high in quality.”

For instance, there was a significant preference for watches that suggest a higher social status among the testosterone-administered group:

Nature

What’s significant about the research is that it delves into the “biological roots of men’s preferences for status” over more practical considerations such as reliability. As the researchers note, the phenomenon of increased testosterone can accompany “contexts related to social rank and male reproductive behavior, e.g., during competitions and after winning them, in the presence of an attractive mate, and even following acts of conspicuous consumption, such as driving a sports car (vs. a family sedan).”

This isn’t the only recent study on the effects of testosterone. A paper published in BMJ in December found that testosterone may have an immunosuppressive effect, leading to the seeming phenomenon of men complaining about conditions like the flu.

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