Psychopaths and Testosterone

This article on the neuroscience of trust raises some interesting questions regarding testosterone and psychopathic behaviour. One of the key characteristics of psychopaths is their lack of empathy which, as it turns out, is also a side-effect of high testosterone:

High testosterone convinces the brain that others find you desirable and socially powerful. It also inhibits the brain’s release of oxytocin, reducing empathy and the desire to collaborate. What’s more, testosterone’s aggression is contagious, inhibiting oxytocin and trust in team members. 

In my book “The Psychopath Economy”, I don’t get much into what makes people psychopaths, I just assume they do, and will always, exist. But this article made me do some further reading on the link between psychopaths and testosterone. At least one study in the last decade concluded that “psychopathy scores were associated with an increased ratio of testosterone (baseline) to cortisol responsivity to a stressor. Psychopathy was not associated with either of these measures independently, or with baseline cortisol levels. These findings suggest that these highly interconnected hormone systems may work in concert to predispose to psychopathy.”

Both testosterone and cortisol play a role in our appetites for risk, which tend to be high in psychopaths.

Another recent study looking at emotional control found that “people with psychopathy, and especially in patients with high endogenous testosterone levels” demonstrated “significantly less activity in the prefrontal brain regions and less communication between the prefrontal brain and the amygdala was observed”.

I wonder if, in addition to making organisation leaders sit the PCL-R (the standard psychiatric psychopathy test), we could also have them sit for testosterone and cortisol tests?

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