Five Ways High Testosterone Impacts Men's Behavior

A Lamborghini stands on display at a dealership in June in Warsaw, Poland. Testosterone can increase men's motivation to improve their social status, according to a new study. (Photo by Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images)

There's ample literature supporting the libido-boosting effects of high levels of testosterone, but new research claims it's the biological reason nearly 93 percent of Lamborghini owners are men.

Higher testosterone levels are linked to a greater preference for luxury goods and status symbols, an evolutionary effect of the hormone studied in animals for years, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications.

In a study of more than 240 men, ages 18 to 55, researchers administered a testosterone gel to half the participants and gave another half a placebo. The men were asked to name their preference for one of two brands, one higher in perceived status than the other, and then chose between identical goods based on the most appealing advertisement. Men who received the testosterone supplement were more likely to choose the perceived "high-status" brand and select the good advertised as "luxury," "prestige" and "artisanal" than items that emphasized power and quality.

The study corroborates animal behavioral studies that found male animals seek to boost and defend their position in the social hierarchy through displays of their dominance, said study co-author Colin Camerer.

"In our closest animal kin, males spend a lot of time and energy fighting to establish dominance. We do, too, but our weapons are what we wear, drive and live in rather than claws, fists and muscles," he said in a statement.

High levels of testosterone does more than drive men to designer brands. Here are five more ways elevated testosterone affects the brain and body:

1.) It could lose you money.

"Alpha males" may not produce alpha results. In a study of more than 3,200 male investors, hedge fund managers with wider faces (associated with heightened testosterone) were worse investors than their long-faced coworkers, who they lagged behind by 6 percent each year. High-testosterone investors were more likely to take greater risks with their work and prefer "lottery-like stocks," the study's authors wrote.

Since testosterone is tied to heightened aggression, it corresponds with the wide-faced investors' willingness to aim high, even if they lack supportive data. They were also more likely to engage in unethical behavior, according to the study.

2.) It can impair decision-making.

High levels of testosterone are tied to impulsive decision-making, which isn't always a benefit for test-takers. A study in Psychological Science found that a single dose of testosterone impacted men's ability to answer correctly on a cognitive reflection test designed to trip up respondents with questions that prompt seemingly instinctive but incorrect responses. Lead author Gideon Nave told Newsweek in May 2017 that past animal behavioral studies have shown males testosterone levels rise when they fight over mates, and impulsive decisions can often mean the difference between life and death.

3.) It can indicate where you grew up.

Men's testosterone levels can indicate what kind of environment they grew up in, according to British researchers. The study of 360 men found that Bangladeshi men who were raised and lived in the U.K. had significantly higher levels of testosterone than Bangladeshi men who grew up and lived in Bangladesh. The Britain-raised set were taller and reached puberty more quickly than their counterparts, researchers found, evidence that pre-pubescent migration has a greater effect on testosterone levels.

Testosterone levels increase when the body isn't fighting off other infections or responding to poor nutrition, common health risks in more challenging environments, lead author Kesson Magid wrote. Their findings show that male reproductive function can fluctuate well into adolescence and is heavily influenced by one's surroundings.

4.) It can promote narcissism.

A study published in June identified testosterone as a driver of the "socially toxic component of narcissism" in both women and men. When participants with higher levels of testosterone were given a position of power, they displayed instances of exploitative and entitlement behaviors, researchers found. High-testosterone participants were also more likely to misuse their power, lead author Nicole Mead wrote, while the group with a low baseline testosterone did not achieve the same narcissistic outcomes in leadership positions.

More than 200 people, men and women, completed a series of leadership tasks in which some were randomly assigned "boss" positions. The bosses were then analyzed for corruption and their willingness to succeed at the expense of others.

Lead author Nicole Mead told the Australian Financial Review that "high-testosterone people seek positions of power even though in the end they are no better leaders–and they may be worse."

5.) It can improve your heart health.

A boost of testosterone can promote a healthier heart. In a 2017 study of men with low testosterone, the 360 participants who received testosterone replacement therapy were significantly less likely to die than the 296 men who rejected the treatment.The experimental group, who suffered no heart attacks or strokes throughout the 10-year study, also reported lower blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure and weight than their counterparts, who suffered a combined 56 nonfatal strokes and heart attacks.

Testosterone deficiencies in older men are associated with an increased risk of death, especially related to heart disease, the study's authors wrote. The control group saw 21 deaths by the study's end, 19 of which were caused by cardiovascular disease. Though the study didn't monitor participants' activity levels, even obese testosterone therapy patients reported increased physical activity and energy as a result of the hormone.