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

Paul Bernhardt (
21 Jul 1995 09:12:57 GMT

Greg Stevens ( wrote:
: > (Greg Stevens) writes:
: >>In <3uh7b7$> (Bryant) writes:
: >>>Greg Stevens <> wrote:

: >>>>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."

: >>>If dominance is a given once obtained, this makes sense. If, however,
: >>>dominance is challenged often, achieving it is not a good technique of
: >>>soothing one's nerves.

: >>Well, societies develop into established status-heirarchies, and in
: >>primates of all kinds (humans included) status seems to be correlated
: >>with both inversely to some degree with noradrenergic activity and
: >>directly to some degree with testosterone. It can be hypothesized that
: >>the stability of such heirarchies would be reinforced through feedback --
: >>successful dominance -> testosterone increase -> noradrenergic decrease ->
: >>calm & confidence -> higher probability of successful dominance.
: >>This, plus social reinforcers of status. Thus, in a somewhat stable
: >>heirarchy, an individual may be observed to "pick on" members of lower
: >>status while NOT using this mechanism against members of higher status.
: >>This preferencial-picking-on has been observed.

: >The behavioral pharmacology of the above is a bit oversimplified;
: >however, as an addendum...decreases in the neurotransmitter in the
: >brain lead to depression and an upregulation of the noadrenergic
: >receptors in most systems I'm familiar with. So I would not equate
: >calm with depression by the above scheme. It is interesting to
: >speculate on whether the "top dog" once it has attained this status
: >becomes depressed: no more fighting to get to the top, only fighting
: >to stay there?

: I recognize that my description of the behavioral pharmacology is simplified,
: but I do the best I can between 1) my understanding and 2) having a
: conversation about it on the internet. :-)

I am just jumping in here so if this is repeating already known
information, I apologize. The process connecting dominance to
testosterone is fairly well documented and appears to be a feedback
process. Higher testosterone (T) means a man is more likely to engage
in dominance behaviors and participate in competitions. Higher T men
are more likely to win a competition. Winning a competition increases
testosterone. With higher T the man is likely to continue to pursue
dominance behaviors...etc. This is Mazur's Biosocial Feedback Theory of
Status. This process has generally been demonstrated in athletes.
However, it has also been shown to happen in non-athletic competition (a
chess tournament). Further, my own research has shown it to happen in the
fans that observe the competition. Granted, the increase in T in fans
probably does not have anything to do with the favored team's subsequent

References: Kemper, T. (1990). Social structure and testosterone. New
Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Mazur, A. (1985). A biosocial model of status in face-to-face primate
groups. Social Forces, vol 64, pp 377-402.

Mazur, A., Booth, A., & Dabbs, J. M. Jr. (1992). Testosterone and chess
competition. Social Psychology Quarterly, vol 55, pp 70-77.

Bernhardt, P. C., Dabbs, J. M. Jr., Turner, C. W., Fielden, J. A., &
Lutter, C. (1995). Testosterone changes during vicarious experiences of
victory and defeat in spectators of sporting events. Manuscript in