Testosterone is often seen as the driving force behind a man's sexual prowess — but with new research showing its effects on the brain, it could also be the reason why couples aren't having sex.
A study, soon to be published in Psychological Science, from researchers at Caltech, the Wharton School, Western University, and ZRT Laboratory looked at how testosterone affected men's behaviour when it came to cognitive reflection — or in layperson's terms, how much a man thought about his actions before reacting.
The 243 male participants were given either topical testosterone gel or a placebo, and were tested in various ways, including an activity that asked them a question that seemed to be simple, but required a bit more thought, as well as math questions.
"What we found was the testosterone group was quicker to make snap judgments on brain teasers where your initial guess is usually wrong," says Caltech's Colin Camerer, one of the study's researchers, in a press release. "The testosterone is either inhibiting the process of mentally checking your work or increasing the intuitive feeling that 'I'm definitely right.'"
As the study notes, there's an evolutionary basis for testosterone levels to rise, prompting instinctive responses, in competitive situations, such as when a man is being challenged to a fight or when competing for a mate. However, those same situations don't quite work in a 21st century context, when the challenge is, say, who the last person was to take out the garbage.
"Testosterone's effect on cognition is an evolutionary vestige (or repurposing) that blunts careful deliberation in favour of rough and rapid processing," the authors write.
So the bullheadedness that results when men — and likely women with elevated testosterone levels as well — are challenged is biological. But that doesn't mean it can't be overcome, and you can use a similar science to control it.
According to Oprah magazine, a great way to calm down when you're angry is to take a seat, as the body associates being upright with being aggressive. Sitting down, on the other hand, relaxes the physical response and reduces stress hormones.
Of course, this doesn't guarantee seeing eye-to-eye, but it could help everyone take a breath and think through exactly what they're fighting about. We mean, is taking out the garbage twice in a row really such a big deal?