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Published October 2017 | Submitted + Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

Single dose testosterone administration impairs cognitive reflection in men


In nonhumans, the sex steroid testosterone regulates reproductive behaviors such as fighting between males and mating. In humans, correlational studies have linked testosterone with aggression and disorders associated with poor impulse control, but the neuropsychological processes at work are poorly understood. Building on a dual-process framework, we propose a mechanism underlying testosterone's behavioral effects in humans: reduction in cognitive reflection. In the largest study of behavioral effects of testosterone administration to date, 243 men received either testosterone or placebo and took the Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT), which estimates the capacity to override incorrect intuitive judgments with deliberate correct responses. Testosterone administration reduced CRT scores. The effect remained after we controlled for age, mood, math skills, whether participants believed they had received the placebo or testosterone, and the effects of 14 additional hormones, and it held for each of the CRT questions in isolation. Our findings suggest a mechanism underlying testosterone's diverse effects on humans' judgments and decision making and provide novel, clear, and testable predictions.

Additional Information

© 2017 The Authors. Article first published online: August 3, 2017; Received: March 01, 2016; Accepted: April 19, 2017. We thank Jorge Barraza, Austin Henderson, and Garrett Thoelen for research assistance, David Kimball for assay testing, and Justine Carré and James Roney for their insightful comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. Action Editor: Steven W. Gangestad served as action editor for this article. The authors declared that they had no conflicts of interest with respect to their authorship or the publication of this article. This work was funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Ivey Business School, the International Foundation for Research in Experimental Economics (IFREE), the Russell Sage Foundation, the University of Southern California, the Institut Européen d'Administration des Affaires (INSEAD), and Stockholm School of Economics. Author Contributions: All the authors developed the study concept and contributed to the study design. Data collection was performed by research assistants, supervised by G. Nave and A. Nadler. Data analysis and interpretation were performed by G. Nave and A. Nadler under the supervision of C. Camerer. G. Nave and A. Nadler drafted the manuscript. All the authors provided critical revisions and approved the final version of the manuscript for submission. G. Nave and A. Nadler contributed equally to this work. Supplemental Material: Additional supporting information can be found at http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/suppl/10.1177/0956797617709592 Open Practices: All data and materials have been made publicly available via the Open Science Framework and can be accessed at https://osf.io/jbq9v. The complete Open Practices Disclosure for this article can be found at http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/suppl/10.1177/0956797617709592. This article has received badges for Open Data and Open Materials. More information about the Open Practices badges can be found at https://www.psychologicalscience.org/publications/badges.

Attached Files

Submitted - Testosterone_impairs_cognitive_reflection_in_men.pdf

Supplemental Material - NaveOpenPracticesDisclosure.pdf

Supplemental Material - Nave_Supplemental_Material.pdf


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