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ImageTestosterone is considered the male hormone, standing for aggression and posturing, but researchers from the University of Bonn have now revealed that this sex hormone surprisingly also fosters social behaviour.

In play situations, subjects who had received testosterone clearly lied less frequently than individuals who had only received a placebo, researchers around Prof. Dr. Armin Falk, an economist from the University of Bonn, found.

The hormone testosterone stands for typically male attributes - it fosters the forming of the sexual characteristics, increases sex desire and muscle building. Women also have this sex hormone, but to a much lesser extent.

"Testosterone has always been said to promote aggressive and risky behaviour and posturing," reports Prof. Dr. Bernd Weber, a neuro-scientist from the Center for Economics and Neuroscience (CENS) at the University of Bonn. More recent studies indicate, however, that this sex hormone also fosters social behaviour.

"The disadvantage of many studies is, however, that they only correlate their subjects' testosterone level with their behaviour," explained lead author Dr. Matthias Wibral, adding that this approach only reflects statistical links while not providing any insights into the causes for the behaviour.

"For testosterone does not only influence behaviour; behaviour, in turn, also influences hormone levels," Dr. Wibral stated.

Consequently, the CENS scientists were looking for an experimental approach that would also allow deducing cause and effect.

The scientists recruited a total of 91 healthy men for a behavioural experiment. Out of this group of subjects, 46 were treated with testosterone by applying it to the skin in gel form.

The other 45 test subjects only received a placebo gel.

This was followed by the behavioral experiments. The test subjects played a simple game of dice in separate booths. The higher their scores, the higher the amounts of money they received as a reward.

"These experiments were designed such that the test subjects were able to lie," reports Prof. Weber.

The researchers compared the results from the testosterone group to those from the control group and found that the test subjects with the higher testosterone levels had clearly lied less frequently than untreated test subjects.

"This result clearly contradicts the one-dimensional approach that testosterone results in anti-social behavior," said the economist Prof. Dr. Armin Falk, who is one of the CENS co-directors with Prof. Weber.

He added that it is likely that the hormone increases pride and the need to develop a positive self-image.

The results have just been published in the Public Library of Science's international online journal PLoS ONE.
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