Fools rush in

We all have an idea of what high testosterone is responsible for, don’t we? Higher sex drive, lower body fat, greater muscle mass, better stamina, that sort of thing. However it now seems it may also be responsible for that Weird Al Yankovic tattoo, those nipple rings and that jet ski.

This is because a new study appears to have found a connection between raised T levels and acting on impulse.

The work adds to the idea explored in previous studies that plenty of male hormone is usually a feature of guys with risk taking personalities. This new trial from researchers at Caltech, the Wharton School, Western University, and ZRT Laboratory, is further insight into how T influences us, outside of the gym, bedroom and doctors office.

New study

For the clinical trial, which is one of the largest of its kind to date, involved 243 randomly selected men. These volunteers were divided into two groups, with one given testosterone gel to elevate their hormone levels, while the others took a placebo.

Both sides then took a cognitive reflection test. That’s geek speak for a math problem that you’ve really got to sit down and think about. Researchers were looking to examine differences in motivation level, use of logic and engagement.

Here’s a sample question from the test participants took:

A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

My impulsive reaction to that question was to try and find out the name of this sporting goods store. Total bargain! What that says about my T levels, I’m not sure.

Generally though, most would likely instinctively say 10 cents. However, take a little time to chew it over and you find the answer is in fact 5 cents. (Look, I don’t know, these people are from Caltech, okay?)


What the team found was that those with higher T gave 20% more incorrect answers than the placebo group. They also gave wrong answers more quickly, suggesting they were closer to gut feelings.

Interestingly, T didn’t have an effect in more straightforward math questions. So higher T certainly doesn’t make you stupider [Editor: Shouldn’t that be ‘make you more stupid’? We need our test tested]. It’s not a brawn or brain situation we’re dealing with here by any means.

Caltech professor Colin Camerer, who worked on the study explains:

“What we found was the testosterone group was quicker to make snap judgments on brain teasers where your initial guess is usually wrong… We think it works through confidence enhancement. If you’re more confident, you’ll feel like you’re right and will not have enough self-doubt to correct mistakes.”

This lends yet more weight to the suggestion that testosterone has a role to play in boosting mood. Previously it’s been found that higher levels of T may be a guard against problems like depression.


So higher testosterone makes you a little more quick to act. What it definitely does not do though is make you dumber. What’s more, the reason you’re quicker to act is down to increased self confidence, and is that really such a bad thing?

Sure, there are times when a little bit of consideration is required but at the same time there are times in life when having the self belief to act quickly and decisively is a great thing.

Studies show that some of the most successful people in sport, but also business, have higher T and do well because they’re prepared to take risks.

No guts, no glory, isn’t that what they say? Well, boosting T cuts body fat so I guess it gets rid of those outside guts and gives you plenty of inside guts. Use em responsibly fellas.

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