Does Testosterone Increase Aggression?

Testosterone is the hormone responsible for male sexual characteristics. It regulates, for example, the formation of the penis in the embryo and the production of sperm from puberty. In addition, its presence leads to the development of secondary male characters, such as the growth of hair and muscle mass.

Does Testosterone Increase Aggression?

From the twentieth century, science sought to understand the relationship between physiology and animal behavior. Several studies have suggested a relationship between testosterone and aggressiveness (and other typically “masculine” characteristics, such as impulsiveness and competitiveness). Simple and easy to be observed experimentally: a brave bull is castrated and he is tame; testosterone is injected into rats and they become more violent.

And we soon concluded that several complex social phenomena, such as crime, violence and machismo, could be explained by a simple mechanism. The blame would be on a single substance produced by the body. In this way, the behavior of men is naturalized (and justified).

But, always remember: reality is complex. Simple answers will never correctly explain complex phenomena.

Thus, more recent studies have come to question those conclusions. What has been observed in recent years is that there is a relationship between aggressiveness and an individual’s testosterone levels. However, it seems that what the hormone does is much more to reinforce existing behaviors than to create them. We learn in society to be violent. The way we exercise this violence is regulated (also) by our hormones.

For example, a study of monkeys showed that males who received synthetic testosterone only showed aggressive behavior towards individuals in the pack hierarchically inferior to them. Never with your superiors. So, it means that violence is not that uncontrollable, is it?

It is too early for conclusions here. Further studies are needed to understand how a particular hormone affects us. Despite this, I think that some statements are already possible: we are social beings inserted in ancient cultures; at the same time, we are animals, subject to biological determinations. Our behavior is a complex synthesis of the relationship between our genes, our environment and our social history.

Nothing will ever be so simple when it comes to human beings.

A hug and see you next!

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