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Published July 3, 2018 | Published + Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

Single-dose testosterone administration increases men's preference for status goods


In modern human cultures where social hierarchies are ubiquitous, people typically signal their hierarchical position through consumption of positional goods—goods that convey one's social position, such as luxury products. Building on animal research and early correlational human studies linking the sex steroid hormone testosterone with hierarchical social interactions, we investigate the influence of testosterone on men's preferences for positional goods. Using a placebo-controlled experiment (N = 243) to measure individuals' desire for status brands and products, we find that administering testosterone increases men's preference for status brands, compared to brands of similar perceived quality but lower perceived status. Furthermore, testosterone increases positive attitudes toward positional goods when they are described as status-enhancing, but not when they are described as power-enhancing or high in quality. Our results provide novel causal evidence for the biological roots of men's preferences for status, bridging decades of animal behavioral studies with contemporary consumer research.

Additional Information

© 2018 The author(s). This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. Received: 17 August 2017 Accepted: 1 June 2018. Published 3 July 2018. We would like to acknowledge funding for this research project from INSEAD Research and Development funds to H.P. and D.D., the MacArthur Foundation, Ivey Business School, IFREE, the Russell Sage Foundation, the Wharton Neuroscience Initiative and the Wharton-INSEAD alliance. Special thanks to Jorge Barraza, Austin Henderson, and Garrett Thoelen for research assistance. Author Contributions: G.N., A.N., D.D., D.Z., C.C., and H.P conceived and designed the study and wrote the manuscript. G.N. and A.N. conducted the experiments and analyzed the data. G.N. and A.N contributed equally to this work. Data analysis: Data were analyzed using linear regression mixed models with item-specific and participant-specific random effects65. All estimated models and their detailed results across experimental tasks are available in the Supplementary Information online. Availability of materials and data. Materials, data, and analysis scripts are available on the project's Open Science Framework (OSF) page: https://osf.io/jqmnx. The authors declare no competing interests.

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Published - s41467-018-04923-0.pdf

Supplemental Material - 41467_2018_4923_MOESM1_ESM.pdf

Supplemental Material - 41467_2018_4923_MOESM2_ESM.pdf


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October 18, 2023