55.Testosterone & Physical Risk

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55.Testosterone & Physical Risk

 

 

 

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Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION…………………………………………………………………………………………………………1
THEORETICAL BACKGROUND …………………………………………………………………………………4
Physical Risk-Taking…………………………………………………………………………………………………………4
Proximate Versus Ultimate Explanations of Risk-Taking ……………………………………………4
Evolutionary Psychology, Sexual Selection, and Risk-Taking……………………………………..6
Extreme Sports and Honest Signaling …………………………………………………………………………….9
Testosterone, Risk-Taking, and Dominance ………………………………………………………………. 12
Hypothesis 1: Circulating Testosterone ……………………………………………………………………… 13
Morphological Markers of Testosterone…………………………………………………………………….. 13
Second-to-Fourth Digit Ratio ………………………………………………………………………….. 13
Hypothesis 2: Second-to-Fourth Digit Ratio……………………………………………………………….. 14
Facial Width-to-Height Ratio …………………………………………………………………………….. 15
Hypothesis 3: Facial Width-to-Height Ratio……………………………………………………………….. 15
Sociosexual Orientation Inventory ……………………………………………………………………………….. 16
Hypothesis 4: Sociosexual Orientation Inventory ………………………………………………………. 16
Life History Theory …………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 17
Hypothesis 5: Life History Theory ………………………………………………………………………………… 18
METHODOLOGY……………………………………………………………………………………………………… 18
RESULTS………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 27
Circulating Testosterone (H1) ……………………………………………………………………………………… 27
Morphological Features (2D:4D and fWHR)(H2 and H3) …………………………………………. 32
Sociosexual Orientation Inventory (H4) …………………………………………………………………….. 35
Life History Theory (H5)……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 36
The Big Five (TIPI scale) ……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 41
The Grit Test …………………………………………………………………………………………….. 45
The Sensation Seeking Scale form V ……………………………………………………………………………. 47
DISCUSSION ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 49
Circulating Testosterone ………………………………………………………………………………………………. 49
Morphological Markers of Testosterone…………………………………………………………………….. 50
Sociosexual Orientation Inventory ……………………………………………………………………………… 51
Life History Theory………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 52
The Big Five (TIPI scale) ……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 53
The Grit Test ……………………………………………………………………………………………. 53
The Sensation Seeking Scale form V ……………………………………………………………………………. 54
LIMITATIONS AND FUTURE RESEARCH ……………………………………………………………… 55
THEORETICAL AND PRACTICAL CONTRIBUTIONS……………………………………………. 60
Appendix A……………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 69
Appendix B……………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 59
References ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 83

Testosterone & Physical Risk


The authors report a field experiment with skateboarders that demonstrates that physical risk taking by young men increases in the presence of an attractive female. This increased risk taking leads to more successes but also more crash landings in front of a female observer. Mediational analyses suggest that this increase in risk taking is caused in part by elevated testosterone levels of men who performed in front of the attractive female. In addition, skateboarders’ risk taking was predicted by their performance on a reversal-learning task, reversal-learning performance was disrupted by the presence of the attractive female, and the female’s presence moderated the observed relationship between risk taking and reversal learning. These results suggest that men use physical risk taking as a sexual display strategy, and they provide suggestive evidence regarding possible hormonal and neural mechanisms.


Both testosterone and cortisol have major actions on financial decision-making closely related to their primary biological functions, reproductive success and response to stress, respectively. Financial risk-taking represents a particular example of strategic decisions made in the context of choice under conditions of uncertainty. Such decisions have multiple components, and this article considers how much we know of how either hormone affects risk-appetite, reward value, information processing and estimation of the costs and benefits of potential success or failure, both personal and social. It also considers how far we can map these actions on neural mechanisms underlying risk appetite and decision-making, with particular reference to areas of the brain concerned in either cognitive or emotional functions.


Many hormones may be able to influence financial decision-making, but two stand out as prime candidates because of their biological functions. Testosterone has well-established roles in reproduction, which embrace aggression, competitiveness and risk-taking, all essential elements of financial dealings as well as successful reproduction. Professional finance is primarily the province of males, though the situation is slowly changing; the financial world has been largely constructed by males and this reflects how hormones influence it. Cortisol is a fundamental component of the response to stress and is important for coping with unpredictable or threatening events, also a common feature or consequence of financial decisions, particularly those made under conditions of duress. Although the role of each hormone is usually considered separately, it must be recognized that under real-life conditions both will be operating together in the same individual. Because hormonal events are not apparent to the individual concerned, their influence on decision-making is covert. Furthermore, levels of hormones, the way they respond to events, and the effects these changes may have on the brain and behavior are all individually variable. So, although it is possible to define an overall action of both testosterone and cortisol on financial behavior in general, and risk-taking in particular, it is equally important to take into account those other factors, genetic or experiential, that modify endocrine responses and the effects they have in individual cases. Most of these have yet to be studied.
Risk appetite is the propensity to take risks: risk-seeking is the behavior that may, or may not, follow a given level of risk appetite. Risk occurs when there is more than one outcome when pursuing a desirable goal, in which one or more of these outcomes may be lower than the safe alternative and thus result in relative or absolute loss, danger or other undesirable consequences. In the more restricted context of finance, risk as outcome variance contributes to the subjective value an individual attaches to that risky option. The subjective value derived from risk is typically determined by giving individuals a choice between a safe (i.e., risk-free) and a risky alternative. If one adjusts the magnitude of the safe alternative until the decision maker is indifferent between the two alternatives, one has determined the subjective value of the risk. Individuals who are risk averse give up money to avoid risk. That is, they are indifferent at safe magnitudes that are smaller than the expected value of the risky alternative. Conversely, individuals who are risk-seeking pay money in order to experience risk. The important point here is that it is the subjective, not the objective, value of the reward and the perceived (rather than the actual) probability of success that influences risk-taking.


Risky decision-making involves several distinct components. Information about the likelihood of success of a particular action is the first, and this depends on previous experience of similar situations, the amount and accuracy of current information, and the ability of the individual to assess that information. From this information, the risk-taker estimates the probability of success and the consequences of failure. The decision to take a given action depends on the subjective value of success or failure to the individual concerned (utility), which can include personal consequences directly related to the decision (e.g., immediate loss or gain of money) or secondary ones (social esteem, promotion, loss of job or livelihood). Major theoretical accounts of risk valuation include expected utility theory, prospect theory and the summary statistics approach to finance theory (reviewed in Schultz, 2006; D’Acremont and Bossaerts, 2008). One problem with many theories of economic risk-taking is that they attempt to cover all contexts and eventualities. But there are substantial differences between, say, a professional trader with much experience and specific training, dealing in millions of pounds every day upon which his salary and even his employment depends, and an average citizen, untrained and inexperienced in financial matters, making everyday financial decisions, some of which may have little consequence. Attempts to devise a more comprehensive theoretical base for economics continue (Orrell, 2018).


There are different types of risk, including liquidity risks, sovereign risks, insurance risks, business risks, default risks etc. Mathematical definitions of risk mostly assume that rewards fluctuate around the mean value (variance) but other patterns include situations in which high reward occurs only occasionally (positive skewness) or scanty reward occurs often (negative skewness; Genest et al., 2016). Most of the literature on the role of hormones in finance focuses on rapid decisions made under the artificial conditions of the laboratory that attempt to reproduce, to some extent, those made in real life within a narrow definition of risk (see below).


Financial decisions and assessments of associated risks are in many ways no different from other types of decisions (Kusev et al., 2017). In particular, decisions taken in contexts of violence or combat have many of the same properties (see below). Both may require rapid decisions, based on estimates of current information which may be available in rapidly changing amounts and to varying degrees of accuracy. Much of the literature on risk-taking in other contexts, particularly those that include urgent and personally-important outcomes, will therefore be highly applicable to understanding the basis of financial risk-taking, even if they have not been directly tested. It should be noted that these circumstances, historically at least, have been mostly masculine ones, a point considered further below. The major difference is that financial risks involve the loss or gain of money rather than personal danger or physical assets. But money represents both potential gain of assets and alterations in social and personal status, factors which are not so different from the more traditional objectives of personal conflict or war or assets such as territory, food supply or sexual partners (Slovic, 1964). A major difference between money and these more biological rewards (based on current or anticipated need) is that gain or loss of money does not necessarily apply to any particular primary reward, such as food, drink or sex. Furthermore, unlike these primary rewards, the rewarding nature of money has to be learnt, and varies with culture and circumstance.


Both testosterone and cortisol have central roles in these behaviors. In both situations, not only the outcome but also the actions associated with risk-taking may themselves be important, since display of such behaviors may have social implications for esteem or leadership, and may therefore contribute to the decision-making process (Eckel and Grossman, 2002). It follows that the neural and endocrine mechanisms associated with neuroeconomics will resemble those in other behavioral contexts involving evaluating risks and making decisions, and the extensive psychological literature on learning and reward assessment will also have direct relevance (Camerer, 2008).


The notion that financial decisions are always taken as a result of accurate and objective assessments of risks and benefits has long since been superseded by a more nuanced approach; in particular, psychological theory realized that risk needs to be perceived and that emotional factors as well as cognitive processes can influence this perception and the decisions that follow from it (Kahneman and Tversky, 1979). Distinctions between “emotion” and “cognition” are difficult and not always clear, and the contribution of either depend not only on the current assessment of a risky choice but on such general properties as personality, emotionality and current mood as well as experience, training, and the particular properties and circumstances of the choice to be made and how they are computed (Zuckerman, 1991). We shall need to consider which components of this manifold system are controlled or influenced by hormones. There is an extensive account of the theoretical basis of risk and decisions made under conditions of uncertainty (Starcke and Brand, 2012).


This article focusses on the roles of testosterone and cortisol in acute decisions made under such uncertainty. As outlined above, such decisions are common in finance, but also in other aspects of life. We can therefore apply some of the information on the way these two hormones affect behavior to the more particular context of finance. The choice of these two hormones rests on the knowledge that they are the ones most obviously concerned with some of the fundamental aspects of behavior that occur under conditions when rewards are only obtainable if there is an assessment of the associated risks, culminating in decisions about whether or not to take them.

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