Testosterone Equals Aggression or Aggression Equals Testosterone?
High levels of testosterone seem to encourage behavior apparently intended to dominate — to enhance one’s status over — other people. Sometimes dominant behavior is aggressive, it is apparent intent being to inflict harm on another person, but often dominance is expressed nonaggressively. Sometimes dominant behavior takes the form of antisocial behavior, including rebellion against authority and law breaking.
One good way to see how it acts on the human body is to perform a test to see if testosterone equals aggression or if it is the other way around. Take a measurement of testosterone several times a day; then monitor the test subject to see how it reacts to certain things. Testosterone not only affects behavior but also responds to it. The act of competing for dominant status affects testosterone levels in two ways. First, testosterone rises in the face of a challenge, as if it were an anticipatory response to impending competition. Second, after the competition, testosterone rises in winners and declines in losers.
Of greater importance are the facts that Sapolsky states in his essay that leads one to wonder if testosterone equals aggression or if aggression equals testosterone.1 He says that numerous studies have been done to figure it out; but have never been able to come to a scientific conclusion. In his essay he goes on to state his view that Hormones seem to many to be more real, more substantive, than the ephemera of behavior, so when a correlation occurs, it must be because hormones regulate behavior, not the other way around.2
The most reliably information has been found in numerous tests that there is no scientific evidence that links testosterone and aggression. Evidence documenting a relationship between t testosterone and aggression in criminal and non criminal populations is inconclusive, with studies reporting both positive and negative findings.3
Even though we dont have any conclusive evidence that directly links testosterone to aggression, that doesnt mean they dont affect each other. It is quite the opposite, testosterone isnt causing aggression, its exaggerating the aggression that is already there.4
1Robert Sapolsky, The Trouble with Testosterone, in The Trouble with Testosterone and Other Essays on the Biology of the Human Predicament (New York, N.Y.: Scribner, 1997), 158.
3Robert Prentky, The Neurochemistry and Neuroendocrinology of Sexual Aggression, Aggression and Dangerousness (New York, N.Y.: John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 1985), 18
Prentky, Robert. The Neurochemistry and Neuroendocrinology of Sexual Aggression,
Aggression and Dangerousness, 9-19. New York, N.Y.: John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 1985.
Sapolsky, Robert. The Trouble with Testosterone, In The Trouble with Testosterone
and other Essays on the Biology of the Human Predicament, 149-159. New York, N.Y.: Scribner, 1997.