New paper on strategic prosocial behaviour published in Neuropsychopharmacology

03.04.2023

Testosterone eliminates strategic prosocial behavior through impacting choice consistency in healthy males

Humans are strategically more prosocial when their actions are being watched by others than when they act alone. Using a psychopharmacogenetic approach, we investigated the endocrinological and computational mechanisms of such audience-driven prosociality. One hundred and ninety-two male participants received either a single dose of testosterone (150 mg) or a placebo and performed a prosocial and self-benefitting reinforcement learning task. Crucially, the task was performed either in private or when being watched. Rival theories suggest that the hormone might either diminish or strengthen audience-dependent prosociality. We show that exogenous testosterone fully eliminated strategic, i.e., feigned, prosociality and thus decreased submission to audience expectations. We next performed reinforcement-learning drift-diffusion computational modeling to elucidate which latent aspects of decision-making testosterone acted on. The modeling revealed that testosterone compared to placebo did not deteriorate reinforcement learning per se. Rather, when being watched, the hormone altered the degree to which the learned information on choice value translated to action selection. Taken together, our study provides novel evidence of testosterone’s effects on implicit reward processing, through which it counteracts conformity and deceptive reputation strategies.

Kutlikova, H., Zhang, L., Eisenegger, C., van Honk, J., & Lamm C. (2023). Testosterone eliminates strategic prosocial behavior through impacting choice consistency in healthy males. Neuropsychopharmacology. doi.org/10.1038/s41386-023-01570-y

Click here for the link to the article.