Collaborating ? Testosterone is the elephant in the room

testosterone causing a cat fight in the boardroomDoing things in groups is considered to be a good way of doing things. In principal, the input of more than one person’s thinking, should produce BETTER thinking.

But, how good the thinking ends up being, is more than just the sum of the IQ in the room, the hormonal mileau COUNTS.

Researchers from University College in London, discovered when women get together to have a pow wow – the ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM is testosterone.

The selfish brain

Collaborating can harness collective intelligence, lifting the group above the individual IQs in the room, BUT collaborating can also produce some seriously flawed thinking.

Groupthink can be dumb think.

Most thinking on this topic, focuses on creating harmony and collaboration assuming everyone is interested in the higher good.

But lets be perfectly honest, few people really care about the greater good, we’re driven by self-interests. Our brain is always asking – WHAT IS IN IT FOR ME !

Sweet or spicy ?

Oxytocin is the touchy feely hormone – higher levels definitely produce a working together mindset.

Women, naturally have more of the stuff, since oxytocin is strongly associated with motherhood. But when women leave the nursery for the board room, oxytocin levels drop and testosterone levels spike.

So are coporate women less sweet and more spicy ?

Working together as a team

Reseachers explored how well female volunteers were able to collaborate.

17 pairs of female volunteers who didn’t know each other at all, were asked to work as a team on two different occasions, a week a part. The catch, they were given a little pharmacological help – on one occasion, the volunteers swallowed a testosterone pill prior to the encounter, on the other occasion, they swallowed a little sugar.

As part of the experiment, they sat in the same room, peering at individual screens; the ladies were shown the same thing. They were tasked with identifying a designated target on the screen. They had to both agree on the position of the target, in order to continue.

Pussy cats and cat fights

At the start of the session – identifying the target was very easy. But as the session progressed, it became increasingly difficult requiring collaborative decisions.

As expected, the two women’s ability to choose the right target was enhanced when they discussed it and reached a joint decision.

On the day when they took the sugar pill (placebo).

But on the day they were loaded up with testosterone, the ability to make GOOD decisions was seriously compromised.

I can’t possibly be wrong

The presence of testosterone caused the women to act more egocentrically i.e. they never really considered the other person’s point of view at all.

Because …………….


Hormones and decisions

Fortunately, most of the time, we manage to tuck our egos away long enough to find the best solution.

But testosterone is always in the picture, a little in “normal” ladies and a lot in “normal” gents.

If you’re attempting to make the best decision – keep your eye out for that alpha male or alpha female, driven by hormones, they’ll bully you into deciding the same way they’re thinking.

And if you’re the one running on a testosterone overload – LISTEN. You may, just may, not be RIGHT !

Body chemistry in the board room

Hormones definitely impact our behaviour. They’re running more than our bodies, they’re running our families, our businesses, our lives.

Body chemistry IS the elephant in the room. Make sure the elephant is not trampling the profits in your business / life.

PS. Watch out for decisions made by sleep deprived individuals too – there is a good chance they won’t be smart moves either. 

Testosterone disrupts human collaboration by increasing egocentric choices. Proceedings of the Royal Society B (2012) Nicholas D. Wright, Bahador Bahrami, Emily Johnson, Gina Di Malta, Geraint Rees, Christopher D. Frith, Raymond J. Dola.

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Further reading

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Fighting aliens in the living room is good for the brain For big decisions bringing in the bladder to “help” the brain is best Can’t Focus? Maybe It’s the Wrong Time of the Month

The 7 Big Spoons™…. are master switches that turn health on.

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Balance Eicosanoids Rein in insulin Dial down stress Sleep ! Increase Vit D Culivate microflora Think champion

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