Calvin Klein or Levi’s, Rolex or Seiko, Mercedes or Skoda? The level of testosterone in a male’s body may be a decisive factor. As an American survey shows that there is a relationship between the level of testosterone sex hormone in men, and the need to buy status brands.
The new study by researchers from three universities in the United States shows that the sex hormone testosterone has a measurable effect on men regarding their preference for goods that are considered to be high status. For example, a man with high testosterone levels is more likely to choose Ralph Lauren than a man with a lower level of hormone.
“In the animal world, testosterone gives rise to aggressive behavior, but it is an aggressive behavior that gives status,”
– Researcher Colin Camerer in an interview with the science site Eurekalert.
Colin Camerer believes that this behavior in human beings is sublimed and expresses what he calls “consumer aggression”. The research study involved 243 men aged 18 to 55 participated and the results were first published in the journal Nature Communications.
The researchers used a “placebo-controlled experiment”, they randomly split the men into two roughly equal groups of similar ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. One group received a single dose of testosterone as a gel that is applied to the skin. A dose that intended to “mimic” a rise in hormone level that might occur in response to “an everyday situation,” such as taking part in or winning a game.
The other group received a similar skin gel, except that it contained a harmless placebo. The study followed a “double-blind” protocol, neither the participants nor the researchers knew which participants had received the testosterone and which had received the placebo.
Both groups then completed two tasks. The first was to choose between two “apparel brands” for five different pairs of goods, they were asked, “Which brand do you prefer, and to what extent?” They were also asked to rate each brand on a scale of 1–10.
For the second task, the men were presented with text descriptions of six different products, ranging from luxury cars to watches and coffee machines. The descriptions were phrased like advertisements. The three types of description were similar, except that some of the text was changed to include “specific phrases emphasizing associations with status, power, or high quality.
In describing a watch, for example, the advert emphasizing quality consisted of phrases such as “supreme quality” and “state of the art,” plus words such as “robustness” and “precision.” In the descriptions that emphasized power, there appeared phrases such as “cutting edge,” plus “athletic excellence” and “benchmark for performance.”
“Our results suggest that in such contexts male consumers might be more likely to engage in positional consumption, and might find status-related brand communications more appealing.”
The results of the first test revealed that the men who were given the testosterone tended to prefer the brands that were associated with a higher social status. Also, testosterone was shown to increase men’s liking for products when they were “described as status-enhancing, but not when they are described as power-enhancing or high in quality.”
The researchers had previously consumer tested the goods. This ensured that the brands in each pair were in opposite “social rankings” but of comparable “perceived quality.”
Testosterone is a hormone produced, under the control of the brain, primarily in the reproductive organs. The main centers of testosterone production are the testes in men and the ovaries in women. Small amounts are produced elsewhere in the body, such as the adrenal glands.
There is growing evidence, however, that testosterone has a “systemic role” in well-being, pain, and heart health in both men and women. Other aspects of testosterone’s influence are also emerging — for instance, it has “beneficial effects on lean muscle and body fat.”
G. Nave, A. Nadler, D. Dubois, D. Zava, C. Camerer & H. Plassmann, Single-dose testosterone administration increases men’s preference for status goods Nature Communicationsvolume 9, Article number: 2433 (2018)