Testosterone levels linked with men’s desire for luxury goods

05 July, 2018, 20:29 | Author: Kara Nash
  • Testosterone pushes men to luxury brands — study

Now, scientists have figured out why: testosterone.

"H$3 ere we're replacing physical aggression with a sort of "consumer" aggression", said study author and California Institute of Technology professor Colin Camerer in a statement.

The study is the first to show that testosterone, which has been shown to trigger courtship behaviours in a number of species, has a strong influence over whether humans prefer humble goods or pricey products. "A lot of human behaviors are repurposed behaviors seen in our primate relatives".

"While the study shows that consumption of positional goods is partly driven by biological motives, it is important not to forget that cultural differences might play a role in the biological underpinnings of status behavior and that status signals are not universal", said author Gideon Nave from the University of Pennsylvania. Camerer likens the costs of this behavior to the cost and weight of the elaborate tails carried around by male peacocks. In modern times, men don't need to bash heads or hunt wild boar in order to gain a better position within the social hierarchy. "It would be easier for the peacock to escape from predators and easier for it to find food if it wasn't carrying that tail around", said Camerer.

The team recruited 243 male volunteers ranging from ages 18 to 55 and separated them in two groups: half were given a dose of testosterone, in gel form, while the other half received an inert placebo gel.


They were sent home and asked to return to the lab about four hours later, when testosterone levels in their blood would be near peak.

In a different task, participants were asked to rate a series of adverts for consumer goods including a auto, a pair of sunglasses, and a coffee machine. For the first task, the men were asked to choose between pairs of brands and rank their preference for each.

The second task meant to investigate the effect of testosterone on the two distinct routes to high social rank-status and power.

A single dose of testosterone steers men towards luxury brands of cars, watches, pens, or clothes which, like stag anglers and peacock tails, signal "status" to the female gender, scientists said Tuesday.

Secondly, they were shown and asked to rate series of ads for consumer goods such as a vehicle, a pair of sunglasses, or a coffee machine, with each version of the ad emphasizing either the item's quality, luxuriousness or power. The research team used six different product categories from coffee machines to luxury cars and created three different framings for each product category, with a similar wording but emphasising the target product in terms of its status benefits, power benefits or high quality. After reviewing the ad, they were asked to rate their attitude toward that item on a scale of 1-10. Here testosterone did not increase liking when the product was perceived as a quality product or a power enhancing one but only when it was described as conveying status. These results establish a causal link between testosterone and increase of preference for status-enhancing goods. Funding and support for the study was provided by INSEAD, the MacArthur Foundation, Ivey Business School, the International Foundation for Research in Experimental Economics, and the Russell Sage Foundation.

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