Steroid use is believed to cause rage, commonly referred to as “Roid Rage.” But a new study suggests that the anger resulting from increased levels of testosterone may actually merely be a means to an end. “The link between aggression and testosterone has sparked the interest of many kinds of people, from a fan wondering whether anabolic steroids might be responsible for his favorite athlete’s wild antics to the scientist hypothesizing about the biological processes involved in violence,” said Carly K. Peterson and Eddie Harmon-Jones, researchers from Texas A&M University and authors of the study. “Instead, researchers now believe that testosterone plays a role in a broader picture involving power and dominance as opposed to aggression per se. That is, testosterone may facilitate behaviors aimed at obtaining and maintaining power and dominance. It is possible testosterone relates to aggression only because aggression can be one of many ways that people attempt to exert control over others.”
The researchers enlisted 43 students for their study and took saliva samples at the beginning of the study to measure cortisol and testosterone levels. The students were given a neutral activity for 5 minutes, followed by a stressful, competitive virtual game. They were led to believe they were competing with other people and the game was designed so that the students were included during the play for half of the game, and completely ostracized for the other half, causing them to experience heightened emotional arousal. At the end of the game, the students measured their emotions. Within fifteen minutes of the game ending, the team collected a second saliva sample. The results revealed that anger was the only emotion that was linked to increases in testosterone. The team believes that the participants needed to be included and dominate the game as a result of higher levels of testosterone. They added, “Although we believe that a motivation to regain control may assist in explaining the observed correlation between self-reported anger and testosterone, future research is necessary to elucidate the precise mechanisms underlying the link between anger and testosterone.”
Peterson, C. K., & Harmon-Jones, E. (2011, September 12). Anger and Testosterone: Evidence That Situationally-Induced Anger Relates to Situationally-Induced Testosterone. Emotion. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025300
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