Effects of gendered behavior on testosterone in women and men

Sari M. Van Anders, Jeffrey Steiger, Katherine L. Goldey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • 15 Citations

Abstract

Testosterone is typically understood to contribute to maleness and masculinity, although it also responds to behaviors such as competition. Competition is crucial to evolution and may increase testosterone but also is selectively discouraged for women and encouraged for men via gender norms. We conducted an experiment to test how gender norms might modulate testosterone as mediated by two possible gender→testosterone pathways. Using a novel experimental design, participants (trained actors) performed a specific type of competition (wielding power) in stereotypically masculine vs. feminine ways. We hypothesized in H1 (stereotyped behavior) that wielding power increases testosterone regardless of how it is performed, vs. H2 (stereotyped performance), that wielding power performed in masculine but not feminine ways increases testosterone. We found that wielding power increased testosterone in women compared with a control, regardless of whether it was performed in gender-stereotyped masculine or feminine ways. Results supported H1 over H2: stereotyped behavior but not performance modulated testosterone. These results also supported theory that competition modulates testosterone over masculinity. Our findings thus support a gender→ testosterone pathway mediated by competitive behavior. Accordingly, cultural pushes for men to wield power and women to avoid doing so may partially explain, in addition to heritable factors, why testosterone levels tend to be higher in men than in women: A lifetime of gender socialization could contribute to "sex differences" in testosterone. Our experiment opens up new questions of gender→testosterone pathways, highlighting the potential of examining nature/nurture interactions and effects of socialization on human biology.

LanguageEnglish (US)
Pages13805-13810
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume112
Issue number45
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 10 2015

Fingerprint

Testosterone
Stereotyped Behavior
Masculinity
Socialization
Competitive Behavior
Sex Characteristics
Research Design
Power (Psychology)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

Cite this

Effects of gendered behavior on testosterone in women and men. / Van Anders, Sari M.; Steiger, Jeffrey; Goldey, Katherine L.

In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 112, No. 45, 10.11.2015, p. 13805-13810.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{0bdcf143edb64a739267c833c6770a95,
title = "Effects of gendered behavior on testosterone in women and men",
abstract = "Testosterone is typically understood to contribute to maleness and masculinity, although it also responds to behaviors such as competition. Competition is crucial to evolution and may increase testosterone but also is selectively discouraged for women and encouraged for men via gender norms. We conducted an experiment to test how gender norms might modulate testosterone as mediated by two possible gender→testosterone pathways. Using a novel experimental design, participants (trained actors) performed a specific type of competition (wielding power) in stereotypically masculine vs. feminine ways. We hypothesized in H1 (stereotyped behavior) that wielding power increases testosterone regardless of how it is performed, vs. H2 (stereotyped performance), that wielding power performed in masculine but not feminine ways increases testosterone. We found that wielding power increased testosterone in women compared with a control, regardless of whether it was performed in gender-stereotyped masculine or feminine ways. Results supported H1 over H2: stereotyped behavior but not performance modulated testosterone. These results also supported theory that competition modulates testosterone over masculinity. Our findings thus support a gender→ testosterone pathway mediated by competitive behavior. Accordingly, cultural pushes for men to wield power and women to avoid doing so may partially explain, in addition to heritable factors, why testosterone levels tend to be higher in men than in women: A lifetime of gender socialization could contribute to {"}sex differences{"} in testosterone. Our experiment opens up new questions of gender→testosterone pathways, highlighting the potential of examining nature/nurture interactions and effects of socialization on human biology.",
author = "{Van Anders}, {Sari M.} and Jeffrey Steiger and Goldey, {Katherine L.}",
year = "2015",
month = "11",
day = "10",
doi = "10.1073/pnas.1509591112",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "112",
pages = "13805--13810",
journal = "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America",
issn = "0027-8424",
number = "45",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Effects of gendered behavior on testosterone in women and men

AU - Van Anders,Sari M.

AU - Steiger,Jeffrey

AU - Goldey,Katherine L.

PY - 2015/11/10

Y1 - 2015/11/10

N2 - Testosterone is typically understood to contribute to maleness and masculinity, although it also responds to behaviors such as competition. Competition is crucial to evolution and may increase testosterone but also is selectively discouraged for women and encouraged for men via gender norms. We conducted an experiment to test how gender norms might modulate testosterone as mediated by two possible gender→testosterone pathways. Using a novel experimental design, participants (trained actors) performed a specific type of competition (wielding power) in stereotypically masculine vs. feminine ways. We hypothesized in H1 (stereotyped behavior) that wielding power increases testosterone regardless of how it is performed, vs. H2 (stereotyped performance), that wielding power performed in masculine but not feminine ways increases testosterone. We found that wielding power increased testosterone in women compared with a control, regardless of whether it was performed in gender-stereotyped masculine or feminine ways. Results supported H1 over H2: stereotyped behavior but not performance modulated testosterone. These results also supported theory that competition modulates testosterone over masculinity. Our findings thus support a gender→ testosterone pathway mediated by competitive behavior. Accordingly, cultural pushes for men to wield power and women to avoid doing so may partially explain, in addition to heritable factors, why testosterone levels tend to be higher in men than in women: A lifetime of gender socialization could contribute to "sex differences" in testosterone. Our experiment opens up new questions of gender→testosterone pathways, highlighting the potential of examining nature/nurture interactions and effects of socialization on human biology.

AB - Testosterone is typically understood to contribute to maleness and masculinity, although it also responds to behaviors such as competition. Competition is crucial to evolution and may increase testosterone but also is selectively discouraged for women and encouraged for men via gender norms. We conducted an experiment to test how gender norms might modulate testosterone as mediated by two possible gender→testosterone pathways. Using a novel experimental design, participants (trained actors) performed a specific type of competition (wielding power) in stereotypically masculine vs. feminine ways. We hypothesized in H1 (stereotyped behavior) that wielding power increases testosterone regardless of how it is performed, vs. H2 (stereotyped performance), that wielding power performed in masculine but not feminine ways increases testosterone. We found that wielding power increased testosterone in women compared with a control, regardless of whether it was performed in gender-stereotyped masculine or feminine ways. Results supported H1 over H2: stereotyped behavior but not performance modulated testosterone. These results also supported theory that competition modulates testosterone over masculinity. Our findings thus support a gender→ testosterone pathway mediated by competitive behavior. Accordingly, cultural pushes for men to wield power and women to avoid doing so may partially explain, in addition to heritable factors, why testosterone levels tend to be higher in men than in women: A lifetime of gender socialization could contribute to "sex differences" in testosterone. Our experiment opens up new questions of gender→testosterone pathways, highlighting the potential of examining nature/nurture interactions and effects of socialization on human biology.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84946771648&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84946771648&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1073/pnas.1509591112

DO - 10.1073/pnas.1509591112

M3 - Article

VL - 112

SP - 13805

EP - 13810

JO - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

T2 - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

JF - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

SN - 0027-8424

IS - 45

ER -