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Does testosterone impair mens' cognitive empathy? Evidence from two large-scale randomized controlled trials

Nadler, Amos and Camerer, Colin and Zava, David T. and Ortiz, Triana L. and Watson, Neil V. and Carré, Justin M. and Nave, Gideon (2019) Does testosterone impair mens' cognitive empathy? Evidence from two large-scale randomized controlled trials. . (Unpublished)

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The capacity to infer the mental states of others (known as cognitive empathy) is essential for social interactions, and a well-known theory proposes that it is negatively affected by intrauterine testosterone exposure. Furthermore, previous studies reported that testosterone administration impaired cognitive empathy in healthy adults, and that a biomarker of prenatal testosterone exposure (finger digit ratios) moderated the effect. However, empirical support for the relationship has relied on small-sample studies with mixed evidence. We investigate the reliability and generalizability of the relationship in two large-scale double-blind placebo-controlled experiments in young men (N=243 and N=400), using two different testosterone administration protocols. We find no evidence that cognitive empathy is impaired by testosterone administration or associated with digit ratios. With an unprecedented combined sample size, these results counter current theories and previous high-profile reports, and demonstrate that previous investigations of this topic have been statistically underpowered.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Discussion Paper)
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription Paper
Nadler, Amos0000-0001-5069-5742
Camerer, Colin0000-0003-4049-1871
Nave, Gideon0000-0001-6251-5630
Additional Information:The copyright holder for this preprint is the author/funder, who has granted bioRxiv a license to display the preprint in perpetuity. It is made available under a CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International license. bioRxiv preprint first posted online Jan. 13, 2019. Funding for this work generously provided by Caltech, Ivey Business School, IFREE, Russell Sage Foundation, University of Southern California, INSEAD, Stockholm School of Economics, Wharton Neuroscience Initiative, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada, and the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation. Special thank you to Jorge Barraza, Austin Henderson, Garrett Thoelen, Dylan Mandred, Kimberly Gilbert, Caelan Mathers, Emily Jeanneault, Nicole Marley, Kendra Maracle, Victoria Bass-Parcher, Nadia Desrosiers, Charlotte Miller, Brittney Robinson, Dalton Rogers, Megan Phillips, Brandon Reimer, Camille Gray, Christine Jessamine, and Brandon Reimer who assisted this study, and David Kimball for LC-MS/MS assay testing. Author contributions. A.N.: experimental design, manuscript, data analysis; G.N.: experimental design, manuscript, data analysis; C.C.: manuscript; D.Z.: manuscript, hormonal assay; T.L.O.: experimental design, data collection; hormonal assay; N.V.W.: manuscript; J.M.C.: experimental design, manuscript.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Ivey Business SchoolUNSPECIFIED
International Foundation for Research in Experimental Economics (IFREE)UNSPECIFIED
Russell Sage FoundationUNSPECIFIED
University of Southern CaliforniaUNSPECIFIED
Institut Européen d'Administration des Affaires (INSEAD)UNSPECIFIED
Stockholm School of EconomicsUNSPECIFIED
Wharton Neuroscience InitiativeUNSPECIFIED
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)UNSPECIFIED
Northern Ontario Heritage Fund CorporationUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:testosterone, cognitive empathy, mind reading, prenatal priming, steroid hormones, pharmacology
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20190114-091654704
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Official Citation:Does testosterone impair mens' cognitive empathy? Evidence from two large-scale randomized controlled trials. Amos Nadler, David Zava, Triana Ortiz, Neil Watson, Justin Carre, Colin Camerer, Gideon Nave. bioRxiv 516344; doi:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:92246
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:14 Jan 2019 20:21
Last Modified:14 Jan 2019 20:21

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