Testosterone inhibits trust, but promotes reciprocity

M.A.S. Boksem, P.H. Mehta, B. van den Bergh, V. van Son, S.T. Trautmann, K. Roelofs, A. Smids, A.G. Sanfey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

137 Citations (Scopus)


The steroid hormone testosterone has been associated with behavior intended to obtain or maintain high social status. Although such behavior is typically characterized as aggressive and competitive, it is clear that high social status is achieved and maintained not only through antisocial behavior but also through prosocial behavior. In the present experiment, we investigated the impact of testosterone administration on trust and reciprocity using a double-blind randomized control design. We found that a single dose of 0.5 mg of testosterone decreased trust but increased generosity when repaying trust. These findings suggest that testosterone may mediate different types of status-seeking behavior. It may increase competitive, potentially aggressive, and antisocial behavior when social challenges and threats (i.e., abuse of trust and betrayal) need to be considered; however, it may promote prosocial behavior in the absence of these threats, when high status and good reputation may be best served by prosocial behavior.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2306-2314
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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