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Psychoneuroendocrinology

Testosterone and cortisol jointly modulate risk-taking.


PMID 25813123

Abstract

Recent theories propose that testosterone should be positively related to risk-taking, but empirical support is mixed. Building on the dual-hormone hypothesis, the present research tested whether testosterone's role in risk-taking depends on cortisol. Study 1 (N=115) tested this hypothesis in a mixed-sex sample with self and informant reports of risk-taking. Study 2 (N=165) tested this hypothesis in a male-only sample with the Balloon Analog Risk Task, a behavioral measure of risk-taking. Across both studies, there was a positive association between basal testosterone and risk-taking among individuals low in basal cortisol but not individuals high in basal cortisol. This pattern emerged in both males and females and across multiple measures of risk-taking (self reports, informant reports, behavior). These studies provide novel empirical support for the claim that testosterone and cortisol jointly regulate risk-taking. Discussion focuses on putative mechanisms as well as implications for real-world risk-taking behaviors.