Testosterone pumps up threats for tough guys
The higher a man’s testosterone level, the more macho he’s likely to act when his masculinity is threatened, a new study finds.
Robb Willer, an associate professor of sociology at Stanford University, has been studying masculinity since he was a graduate student, lending empirical data to the popular beliefs about emasculation.
In one of his first inquiries into the subject, back in 2005, he found that men whose masculinity is threatened express more masculine traits and behaviors. For example, Willer has found that threatened men show stronger support for war and greater interest in buying an SUV—attitudes and behaviors culturally associated with masculinity.
Willer’s new research, published in the American Journal of Sociology, follows up on that earlier study, finding that men higher in testosterone are more easily threatened, engaging in masculine overcompensation in response.
The paper includes four studies examining the theory of male overcompensation—that men react to the undermining of their masculine status with bold demonstrations of strength and masculinity. The most recent study investigates testosterone’s role.
War and homosexuality..
“Masculine overcompensation in men appears to be driven by men with moderate to high testosterone levels,” Willer says. “Their levels of support for war and homophobia practically doubled on the scale that we measured them on, where lower testosterone men were unaffected by threats.”