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Study Shows Testosterone is Bad For High-Stakes Decisions 213

itwbennett writes "According to a study by researchers at the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business, young CEOs with higher levels of testosterone in their system are 'more likely to initiate, scrap or resist mergers and acquisitions' — even when it's not in their best interest. 'We find a strong association between male CEOs being young and their withdrawal rate of initiated mergers and acquisition,' says Prof. Levi, whose research relies on the established correlation between relative youth and increased levels of testosterone. 'For instance, young CEOs, who have higher levels of testosterone, tend to reject offers even when this is against their interest.'"
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Study Shows Testosterone is Bad For High-Stakes Decisions

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  • by phantomcircuit ( 938963 ) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @02:51AM (#33596998) Homepage

    How did they control for experience? Pump old guys full of testosterone?

  • RTFA. SRSLY. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @02:59AM (#33597028) Journal

    Actually, no, if you actually RTFA (I know, I know, it's Slashdot), you'll find out that no, it's also based on a study where they actually asked people to play a sort of game, and they actually measured testosterone levels. Those who had more testosterone, tended to be more competitive even when it resulted in losing the game.

    In fact those with high testosterone levels ended up doing things as irrational in any imaginable circumstance as to basically reject an offer of free money, just because they perceived it as being too low. You don't want someone like that making economic decisions.

    Just age and experience had nothing to do with it. Those test subjects who were just as young but more deficient in the testosterone department tended to take more rational decisions.

    Basically, thinking with your dick is bad. The stereotype of the Real Man with real balls may have been a plus when it came to making him do dumb stuff like going to get stabbed at for his king, but it turns out to be a liability when the job requires more thinking with the head upstairs than with the one below the belt. You want someone taking economic decisions because they make logical and mathematical sense, not because it's his kind of measuring dick size against the partners.

  • Re:RTFA. SRSLY. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by chichilalescu ( 1647065 ) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @03:48AM (#33597220) Homepage Journal

    suppose someone understands people's emotions and can use them to their advantage. that doesn't mean they are controlled by their emotions... on the contrary.
    and another thing: the best leaders are those that have good advisors, and listen to those advisors. high levels of testosterone will probably lead you to do things your own way, to prove yourself. from an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense: the hormone is there to push everyone to do their own thing, so females can pick the winners.
    hopefully, human society has evolved beyond the point where we need the other guys to fail so that we can succeed.

  • Re:RTFA. SRSLY. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 10101001 10101001 ( 732688 ) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @04:03AM (#33597270) Journal

    In fact those with high testosterone levels ended up doing things as irrational in any imaginable circumstance as to basically reject an offer of free money, just because they perceived it as being too low. You don't want someone like that making economic decisions.

    Just a small point, but the "ultimatum game" has been conducted many times and the consistent issue it raises is that people often reject low offers, even though as you note it's to reject free money. The new study in part gives one possible explanation for why young men might reject free money in the "ultimatum game", but it doesn't explain everyone else's reasons nor is there any evidence that it's the young males who were the group that most often rejected in previous "ultimatum game" studies. Btw, the Nash equilibrium, optimal solution for splitting $100 would be to offer $0.01 and keep $99.99. Would you accept that?

  • by vidnet ( 580068 ) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @05:01AM (#33597434) Homepage

    But interestingly, testosterone seems to have the opposite effect on women. []

    Women who received a placebo but believed they had received testosterone offered fair money splits only 10 percent of the time, probably because they harbored a negative stereotype of testosterone's effects. Women who were given testosterone but thought it was a placebo, on the other hand, offered fair-share splits 60 percent of the time--significantly more often than those who correctly guessed they got testosterone (30 percent) or a placebo (50 percent).

    The difference is 10%. Neither TFA or this FA mention sample size (boo!), but unless it was tragically low, this should be significant.

  • Gynocentric crappola (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sqreater ( 895148 ) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @06:10AM (#33597650)
    More anti-male blindness, demonizing, and beyond-the-pale gynocentrism. It doesn't seem to matter that everything we have as far as science, industry, technology, and government comes from male agressive creativity -- testosterone mediated inventive behaviors. The passive "doership" of the estrogenoni seems to be the only good and useful thing in our politically correct society. I guess James Watt, Maudsley, Edison, Ford, Einstein, Jobs, Gates.....were all making bad testosterone-filled mistakes. Far from mistakes, they made good, aggressive, risk-taking decisions driven by testosterone. It is more likely that the half of the human population that does not do these things is poisoned by its estrogen into being passive to the point of making NO decisions than possibly wrong aggressively creative decisions. Researchers, stop the constant male bashing.
  • by eluusive ( 642298 ) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @06:29AM (#33597732)
    It's funny, because if you go find their actual paper [], they didn't measure testosterone at all. "In this paper we examine whether testosterone, which is associated with male dominance seeking and which we have proxied by male CEO age, is associated with M&A withdrawals, the use of tender offers, and bid initiation." Fucking ridiculous, I'm surprised this paper even got published.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 16, 2010 @08:33AM (#33598300)

    And they are misrepresenting the ultimatum game as well:

    " The ultimatum game is a game often played in economic experiments in which two players interact to decide how to divide a sum of money that is given to them. The first player proposes how to divide the sum between the two players, and the second player can either accept or reject this proposal. If the second player rejects, neither player receives anything. If the second player accepts, the money is split according to the proposal. "

    In my university we played this game on "conflict resolution" course. Women got significiantly less money at the end.

  • Big can of Worms (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BlueParrot ( 965239 ) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @08:56AM (#33598450)

    Sex hormones can affect you a lot, at least some people. I used to be among those who insisted psychological differences between men and women were cultural, or due to upbringing and whatnot, then eventually I came to the point where I could no longer go on suppressing my feelings, and I called up a gender identity clinic, explained I felt fairly certain I'm transsexual, that I had tried my very best just living as a man , accepting it and that I just couldn't do it anymore. At the time I think I had pretty much ceased to eat out of depression.

    Since then I've had most of my testosterone replaced with estrogen, and aside from very rapidly ( within weeks ) making me feel better than I even thought was possible, it has also caused a lot of other changes. Some of which are quite common among people in my situation, others are more individual. It's hard to determine which changes are due to the hormones and which are merely due to feeling more comfortable with my body, but some are so common and well documented that psychiatrists and endocrinologists more or less assume them to be hormonal. There's always exceptions, and the effects are variable and individual, but the following is frequently described:

    Reduced sex drive
    Increased appetite
    A change in orgasmic pattern, moving it closer to that described by women
    Increased skin sensitivity.

    The last bit is actually likely due to the skin going thinner and hence a physical rather than psychological change. Bruises also stay visible longer, acne tends to improve, and many have trouble with dry skin. For me the last bit was so bad I developed severe rashes and had to go on a course of cortisone treatment. Nowadays I can keep it in control with normal skin lotion however.

    Now I don't mean with this that all stereotypes you hear about men and women are true, or that this particular study is even worth the paper it is written on. After all I'm arguably quiet different from most people ( or otherwise I would never had to do this ), and hence my experiences or those of people similar to me can't really be extrapolated to the rest of the population.

    However I can tell you one thing for sure. Hormones can do a lot of things to a person. Some people want to insist I'm just imagining it or that it may be a placebo effect or similar. It's a real pity the physical effects ( like breast development ) are partially irreversible, because otherwise I could just tell those people to go try for themselves. It really does affect you quite a bit.

  • Re:RTFA. SRSLY. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CraftyJack ( 1031736 ) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @09:17AM (#33598620)

    Btw, the Nash equilibrium, optimal solution for splitting $100 would be to offer $0.01 and keep $99.99. Would you accept that?

    Of course not. The offer would offend my sense of 'fairness'. That's not limited to humans, either. I recall a study in which capuchin monkeys rejected rewards that weren't 'good enough'. It's not the ultimatum game, but it does tap into our sense of fairness.

    Abstract here [], pdf here []

  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Thursday September 16, 2010 @10:50AM (#33599664) Homepage Journal

    More anti-male blindness, demonizing, and beyond-the-pale gynocentrism.

    And a bit mysandrist to boot. If there had been a "study" measuring the effects of female hormones one women executives (especially with PMS, menopause, and all the other problems some women suffer) it would have been demonized as Misogynistic.

  • by bratwiz ( 635601 ) on Thursday September 16, 2010 @12:55PM (#33601348)

    I think its all about the underwear.

    Women tend to wear silky, smooth underwear, or maybe nylon with some lace.

    Whereas men tend to wear itchy, scratchy old boxer shorts or briefs, which would naturally make anybody cranky and hard to get along with.

    So its no wonder that the young males were predisposed to making different decisions.

    Did any of the researchers factor out the difference in the underwear ???

    I think not.

    Clearly the research and all of its outcomes is totally biased, and the real answer is 'It depends.'

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. -- F. Brooks, "The Mythical Man-Month"