ch16

Psychology in Action

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Many researchers argue that the level of testosterone in the body is an inconsequential factor in determining the level of aggression. These investigators agree that testosterone level varies among individuals, but they believe that the more important influences upon aggression are social factors. They also note that females who, on the average, have one-tenth the level of testosterone of males, vary in their aggressive behaviors. Another complaint (noted above) has been that studies on testosterone level did not apply to the population at large. Now, several new studies have extended these findings into the general population. One of the strongest supporting studies comes from a study on aging in the Boston area. The subjects, 1,706 men, ages 39 to 70, were interviewed in their homes and given personality tests and blood tests. Dr. John B. McKinlay, one of the psychologists who directed the research in this study, reports that a relationship was found between dominance and level of testosterone. Men who had the higher levels of testosterone expressed opinions more readily, anger more freely, and tended to dominate social interaction. Instructor's Resource Guide                               Chapter 16                                             Page  238
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In another study, reported by Dr. James Dabbs, Jr., data was collected on 4,462 Vietnam veterans. Started in 1985, this study was designed to measure the long-term effects of military service. Data was collected relative to income and educational level; this information was used for assignment to either an upper or lower socioeconomic level. Differences in adjustment related to level of testosterone: those with higher levels contributed a greater share of delinquent behaviors such as drug abuse, friction with teachers, and going AWOL while in service. They also reported a greater number of sexual partners. However, testosterone was not the only factor that mattered. The effect of testosterone depended upon the socioeconomic level. Those who were from the lower socioeconomic level were more likely to be involved in anti-social activity. McKinlay feels that Dabbs' findings support his own results. He says that the outlet one chooses to express more aggression depends upon social class. One can steal a car (if one is poor) or one can race with a motor boat (if one has the money). A person can choose to become dominant in the corporate world or to beat up people on the street. Obviously, having money increases the choices available. However, with very high testosterone levels, one may find it difficult to fit into society at any level because of sheer need for physical activity or a low threshold for frustration which prevents one from cooperating with others or conforming sufficiently to move upwards in the corporate world. One interesting factor from the study by Dabbs is his finding that men with high testosterone levels are two and a half times more likely to be in the lower socioeconomic group.
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