Sciences and Mathematics, College of
Psychological Science, Department of
BURS Faculty Advisor
Empathy is integral to individual, relational, and cognitive health. Sex differences in empathy are prominent, yet investigation of the biological basis is lacking. Since men have higher testosterone levels than women on average, sex differences in empathic ability may be partially due to sex differences in testosterone. Testosterone has negatively correlated with empathy in men, but not women. More research is needed on how findings differ based on measuring organizational and activational effects of testosterone, with some studies showing prenatal testosterone exposure positively associated with affective empathy in women while others demonstrate heightened levels of activated testosterone reduced or impaired empathy. The purpose of this quasi-experimental study was to investigate both the organizational and activational effects of testosterone on empathy in males and females. We measured the organizational (2D:4D ratio) and activated testosterone (measured via change in pre and post saliva assays after a competitive activity) on empathy (measured experimentally and self-reported) of 40 undergraduate students. Within sexes, we hypothesize lower organizational testosterone will positively correlate with baseline empathic ability and change in activated testosterone will negatively correlate with change in empathy. We expect sex differences in empathy, baseline testosterone levels, and increased activated testosterone, with males having lower empathy, higher testosterone, and greater increase in activated testosterone levels than females. These results will further add to the conversations surrounding the important role of hormones on empathy and potential differences between sexes.
Urban, Samantha; Arnold, Rachael; Dahm, Jess; and Rodriguez-Calvillo, Raul, "Investigation of the Organizational and Activational Effects of Testosterone on Empathy" (2023). Belmont University Research Symposium (BURS). 251.