More Testosterone Means Less Empathetic

Historically and arguably in modern times, it made sense for men to be more selfish and less empathetic. Recently, studies have been done concluding a strong link between the ability to empathize, and testosterone. In this study, empathy was measured on 20 healthy female participants who were given a “single dose” of testosterone on 2 days, and tested 4 hours post administration. Because facial mimicry has been proven an accurate, and non-invasive gauge of empathy, the women’s facial expression following exposure to a sad or angry face was observed. Women administered the testosterone were significantly less likely to respond by mimicking the facial expression shown, suggesting feelings of empathy had been blunted by the testosterone.

In a similar study, it was shown that empathy was followed by a spike in oxytocin, and guess which hormone has been proven to blunt the effects of oxytocin? Testosterone. So it makes sense that men, who have more testosterone, are less empathetic than women.

Since empathy often leads to feelings of wanting to help, it makes sense for men, who are historically the providers and protectors of the tribe/clan/family etc, to have evolved a resistance to feeling empathetic. Oftentimes, feeling empathetic can lead to wanting to help someone, and helping someone can often lead to sacrificing resources, or putting ones-self in unnecessary danger. In addition, it doesn’t make sense for a man to have second-thoughts about killing an attacker or hunting prey, because a sense of empathy overwhelmed him and he changed his mind subjecting himself to danger, or the inability to provide, respectively. For women, historically the nurturers and caretakers, evolving a strong sense of empathy was paramount to ensuring that a child was not abandoned and was able to survive to one day reproduce and continue the genetic lineage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *