Women who merely role-played as though they had power in fantasy scenarios saw their testosterone levels rise by up to 10%, according to a new study.
In a paper published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists from the University of Michigan presented their findings that, regardless of gender, those who exercise power produce more testosterone.
The research is especially fascinating because it suggests that testosterone production may have more to do with nurture, since men are socially conditioned to act with power, than nature than generally believed.
Testosterone is a hormone typically associated with masculinity in men. It plays an important role in men’s health because it affects the libido, reproductive system and muscle mass, among other things. Testosterone is also linked to certain behavioral traits in men, like aggressiveness. Relative to men, women’s bodies only produce a fraction of the hormone.
For their study, the researchers recruited over 100 participants to act out scenarios where bosses fired employees. Those in boss roles were told to perform the firings in a more dominant way and then in a “nice” way.
Surprisingly, researchers found that the testosterone levels for both the women who acted more stereotypically masculine and those who acted more stereotypically feminine increased.
Men who performed the firings saw their testosterone rise by only 4%, while women saw theirs rise by 10%.
“Our results would support a pathway from gender to testosterone that is mediated by men engaging more frequently than women in behaviors such as wielding power that increase testosterone,” the researchers wrote.