Testosterone has a bit of a PR problem. The hormone, while responsible for helping men build muscles, sprout Wolverine-like facial hair, grow bigger hands, and generally boost their odds of getting noticed by the opposite sex, is often seen as the negative trait of lunkheaded obnoxious bros with popped collars who can’t control their temper. But a new study sheds light on a new trait that could help change this: high levels of testosterone may be responsible for making people more generous.
Researchers from Trinity College in Dublin gave 40 men either a testosterone injection or a placebo before participating in a series of financial experiments. Participants were asked to split a sum of cash and could accept or decline based on the terms. They could also give financial bonuses or penalties depending on the perceived fairness of the deal.
As expected, men who received the testosterone gave out harsher punishments in response to bad deals. The hormone made them more aggressive but surprisingly, this translated to aggressive generosity as well. The more testosterone men had, the more likely they were to reward fair deals with bonuses.
This isn’t the first time researchers have looked at what a good cup of T could do for your bank account. Past studies have shown that testosterone can help you make more money, and making more money could help boost your testosterone.
Up until now, one of the few upsides to your manliest hormone declining with fatherhood and old age was that you thought it made you a kinder guy. But these findings suggest that testosterone is a social enhancer, rather than the oversimplified aggression enhancer many believe. So, if you end up boosting your testosterone through diet or exercise, it won’t give you an excuse for being selfish. The spiked T could simply stand for tough, but fair.