Men with increased levels of testosterone hormone have a greater preference for goods that are considered status symbols, according to a study.
Published in the journal Nature Communications, the study found that one of the primary functions of testosterone is to generate both status-seeking and status-protecting behaviours.
“A lot of human behaviours are repurposed behaviours seen in our primate relatives. So, here, we are replacing physical aggression with a sort of ‘consumer’ aggression,” said Camerer.
The study included 243 male volunteers between the ages of 18 and 55 who were randomly selected to receive a dose of testosterone gel or placebo gel that would absorb through their skin.
They were sent home and asked to return to the lab about four hours later, when testosterone levels in their blood would be near peak.
Upon returning, they participated in tasks designed to gauge their preferences for different types of goods.
The first task presented participants with a 10-point scale that had a brand associated with high social status at one end and a brand with lower social status but otherwise equivalent quality at the other end.
They were asked to move a slider towards the brand they preferred with the slider’s proximity to the brand indicating how strong their preference was.
The data the researchers collected during this task showed that the men who received a dose of testosterone had a stronger preference for the luxury brands than did the men who received the placebo.
The second task was designed to tease apart testosterone’s effect on the desire for luxury good from other potential effects, like an increased desire for high-quality goods or for goods that evoked a sense of power.
The task presented the study participants with a series of ads for consumer goods such as a car, a pair of sunglasses, or a coffee machine.
The participants were randomly presented with one of three versions of an advertisement for each item, with each version of the ad emphasising either the item’s quality, luxuriousness, or power.
After reviewing the ad, they were asked to rate their attitude towards that item on a scale of 1-10.
The data from this task – as with the first task – showed that men who received a dose of testosterone had a stronger preference for luxury goods than men who received the placebo.
There was no corresponding increase in preference for goods that were advertised as powerful or higher in quality, researchers said.
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