Russell Sage Foundation Funded Research Connects Boosting Testosterone Levels To Men Preferring Luxury Goods
New findings from the largest study of its kind, led by Gideon Nave, an assistant marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, underscore a biological factor at play in the choice of products conveying status: testosterone. Giving men a single dose of testosterone increased their preference for higher-status goods.
The study supports previous research that connects transient increases in testosterone levels to a rise in behaviors aimed at boosting social rank.
“We found a small but consistent effect on preferences,” Nave says. “The findings need to be replicated, but we used a sample size that is four or five times larger than what has been used before, so we have more evidence than we’ve ever had that testosterone is affecting these preferences.”
While the study, published in Nature Communications, measured the participants’ preferences and positive attitudes about products, not actual purchases, Nave says that the findings serve as a foundation for forecasting consumer behavior.
In evolutionary biology, the presence of seemingly impractical ornaments such as the peacock’s tail or a stag’s bulky antlers are explained by what’s known as the handicap principle. While these displays would seem to diminish an animal’s fitness, they serve to increase their attractiveness to a potential partner, as they suggest an individual has resources to spare and can thus afford to fritter away some on a frivolous investment.
“The idea is these things are actually handicaps that the animals put on themselves,” Nave says, “and by having them the animals show they are sufficiently fit to have these handicaps.”
One needn’t look far to find the same patterns in humans. A luxury product, say, a fancy watch, tells the same time as an inexpensive digital one but also carries with it a signal of social status...