Testosterone administration modulates inequality aversion in healthy males: evidence from computational modeling

Jiajun Liao, Jianxin Ou, Yang Hu, Philippe N Tobler, Yin Wu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Fairness concerns play a prominent role in promoting cooperation in human societies. Social preferences involving fairness concern have been associated with individual testosterone levels. However, the causal effects of testosterone administration on fairness-related decision making remain to be elucidated. Here, we used a randomized, double-blind, between-participant design and administered testosterone or placebo gel to 120 healthy young men. Three hours after administration, participants performed a modified Dictator Game from behavioral economics, in which they were asked to choose one of two monetary allocations between themselves and anonymous partners. Participants were either in a position of advantageous inequality (i.e., endowed with more than others) or disadvantageous inequality (i.e., endowed with less than others). Computational modeling showed that inequality-related preferences explained behavior better than competing models. Importantly, compared with the placebo group, the testosterone group showed significantly reduced aversion to advantageous inequality but enhanced aversion to disadvantageous inequality. These findings suggest that testosterone facilitates decisions that prioritize selfish economic motives over fairness concerns, which in turn may boost status-enhancing behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106321
Issue numberSept 2023
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023


  • Advantageous inequality
  • Computational model
  • Disadvantageous inequality
  • Fairness-related decision-making
  • Inequality aversion
  • Testosterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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