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Investigating The Role Of Hormones In Theory Of Mind

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North American Journal of Psychology





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Theory of mind (ToM) represents the ability to make inferences about the ententions, beliefs, emotional states, and likely future behavior of other individuals. It appears that, on average, girls and women have a small advantage on many ToM tasks over boys and men. The current study was designed to investigate if circulating levels of sex hormones affect ToM abilities. Study one used an experimental group of 17 women who began taking estrogen-containing oral contraceptives (OC) during the study compared to a control group who did not begin using OC. Results indicate that estrogen supplementation, at least synthetic estrogen, does not enhance ToM abilities. Study two measured circulating levels of testosterone in 57 men and 29 women via salivary assay and related them to ToM skills. Results indicate that while there is no relationship for females' level of testosterone and ToM skills ( r = .10); males with higher T levels did make more errors ( r = -.19). A different pattern for males with the highest T levels was observed. Specifically, males nearing 2 SD's above the mean T levels made fewer errors ( r =.20). For most males (the middle three SD'd of T levels), higher levels of testosterone are strongly associated with more errors on tests that measure ToM skills, r (47) = .33, p = .02, R2 = .11. Reasons and theoretical implications for the overall pattern of hormonal effects are discussed. © NAJP.


Department of Psychology

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