Re: Evolution, aggression, and men: Hormones matter?

Greg Stevens (
Tue, 18 Jul 95 03:57:17 GMT

In <3ueij7$> (Bryant) writes:
>Greg Stevens <> wrote:

>>The interesting thing is, testosterone levels rise in those gaining status

>Sorry I wasn't around to answer queries about my post.

>So it sounds like the Kung San men I mentioned are more aggressive
>because they're dominant (hence the high testosterone)?

There could be that relationship, where although the correlation between
AGGRESSION and testosterone is not high, in some cultures dominance is
expressed or established through aggression, and so the correlation manifests
because of that. Thus,

testosterone <-> dominance

dominance -> aggression .... in some cultures.

It should be noted that in nonhuman primates, simple interpersonal signals
like gazes have resulted in testosterone fluctuations, and in human
subjects --- well, for example, Allen Mazur studied tennis players and
found that the winner of a match had increasing testosterone levels
and the loser had decreasing levels. This may be less convincing as a
separate example from aggression, though, because of the physical exertion

I do not know about other physiological correlates to aggression or
dominance. I know that a lot of aggression occurs as a product of
high noradrenergic activity (and thus in some cases is inversely
related to testosterone, as I suggested earlier with my talk of
withdrawal). Thus aggression is a by-product of nervousness and
irritability. But here cause and effect is interestingly tangled.
If increasing testosterone has the effect of inhibiting noradrenergic
activity, and dominance increases testosterone, then it could be that
rather than the perspective "noradrenergic activity leads to aggression"
it may be more informative to say "noradrenergic activity leads to
the desire to be calmed, and one channel for this is via dominance leading
to testosterone-induced inhibition of noradrenergic activity."

This makes a kind of sense to me, also, because people have OTHER options
than being dominance when they are anxious. Frequently one can turn
to attachment and soothing-others when one is anxious -- thus stimulating
opioid inhibition of noradrenergic activity, rather than relying on
the testosterone mechanism. Which of the arousal-inhibiting devices one
uses could be partially a matter of culture -- thus, for example, women
are taught to turn to the opioid (attachment, nurturing, soothing) mechanism
of anxiety/noradrenergic activity reduction, whereas men are taught
to turn to the testosterone (dominance, status-seeking) mechanism of
anxiety/noradrenergic activity reduction.

Greg Stevens