Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Testosterone Treatment, Affect, and Appearance: Slight Effects in Normal Subjects

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Testosterone Treatment, Affect, and Appearance: Slight Effects in Normal Subjects

Article excerpt

In a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled experiment, 64 women and 26 men applied testosterone and placebo skin creams during two five- to seven-day periods. Subjects provided serum samples for testosterone assay, completed a daily affect measure, wrote projective stories, recorded random samples of everyday speech, provided a guess as to which week they had received testosterone, and were videotaped in a standard setting. The treatment more than doubled subjects' mean serum testosterone level. Testosterone reduced positive affect in both sexes and led to more attractive dress among women but not among men. There was virtually no effect on story-writing, speech, or videotaped behavior, and subjects could not accurately guess which week they had received testosterone.

Key words; testosterone, placebo, double-blind, women, men.

Correlational studies indicate that individual differences in testosterone level predict activities loosely associated with assertive or aggressive behavior and dominance (Dabbs, Carr, Frady, & Riad, 1995; Dabbs & Morris, 1990; Mazur & Booth, 1998). This extends to everyday activities, where high testosterone individuals enter a room in a bolder and more forward manner than do low testosterone individuals (Dabbs, Bernieri, Strong, Campo, & Milun, 2001). Experimental studies with animals indicate that testosterone increases persistence, boldness, and focused attention (Andrew, 1978; Boissy & Bouissou, 1994), but human experimental studies have been largely limited to clinical populations (Yates, 2000). These clinical studies report positive effects of testosterone among hypogonadal men (Yates, Perry, MacIndoe, Holman, & Ellingrod, 1999) and postmenopausal women (Davis, 1999). Exceptions to the use of clinical populations include Bhasin et al. (1996), Tricker et al. (1996), and Pope, Kouri, and Hudson (2000), who studied muscle development, mood, and aggression in normal subjects following testosterone injections. The present study extended the experimental research to explore effects of testosterone on mood and behavior among normal men and women. The setting for the study was modeled after that used by Dabbs et al. (2001) in their correlational study of testosterone in everyday behavior.

Selection of testosterone treatment levels in the present study was guided by the work of Bhasin et al. (1996) and Pope et al. (2000), who gave normal men intramuscular (IM) injections of 200-600 mg testosterone per week for up to 10 weeks. To place these treatment levels in perspective, hypogonadal patients typically receive about 200 mg every two weeks via IM injection or 5-10 mg/day via transdermal patch or gel, and postmenopausal women typically receive transdermal or oral testosterone treatments in the range of 1-3 mg/day. Pope et al. found that 600 mg/wk increased mean serum levels from about 700 ng/dl to 2700 ng/dl. Treatment levels in the present study were selected to approximately double subjects' baseline serum testosterone levels.

METHOD

PROCEDURE

Subjects were run in groups of about 10 over a period of six months. Subjects participated for nominal two-week periods, although participation was seven days per week for women and five days per week for men, as described below. Subjects first reported to the laboratory to learn about the study, sign consent forms, and provide background information about their health, history of depression or other psychiatric disorders, medical history relevant to reproductive disorders, and current medications. They returned to the laboratory at the beginning and end of each week. At home they applied a testosterone skin cream one week and a placebo cream the other week, in counterbalanced order. They completed daily PANAS self-ratings of affect, (Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988) and on the evening before the last day of the week they wrote Picture Story Exercise projective stories. On the last two days of each week they carried small electronic recorders that picked up random samples of their spoken language. …

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