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Saturday, January 9, 2016

Moderate testosterone and trust


While looking at pictures of Barack Obama for the previous post, it occurred to me how much he has benefitted by not being an overly masculine guy. Because he came across nonthreatening, he was a lot more palatable to the white electorate. He had a big smile, could speak the King's English, and was the type of black man whites are generally comfortable with.

In the immortal words of Harry Reid, Obama had Presidential potential because he was a "light-skinned black with no negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."

Or, as Joe Biden said in 2007 about Obama, "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."

Key to both of those impressions was that Obama wasn't physically intimidating. He didn't look in any way like a cartoon style bully. And so people were at ease with him, and thus more inclined to trust him.

Another guy who must have benefitted from that effect is Martin Shkreli. If you hadn't known anything about him, but were introduced to him a few years ago --


-- you'd probably have been positively predisposed toward him, simply because he's not in any way a threatening physical presence. And if you were told that he was a hedge fund manager, you'd likely have thought, "Ah, boy genius!" 

But a lack of male hormones doesn't necessarily equal honesty, or decency. In fact, there's no correlation at all. Shkreli, as we now know, is merely a con man. 

And, frankly, so is the other guy.

27 comments:

mark said...

Testosterone is positively correlated with honesty a study suggests. Makes sense to me. If you have muscle you need less bluster. If Obama was 5'9 he might have been considered to slight to be President and probably not married to Michelle.

John Craig said...

Mark --
What study is that? If I had to come up with a reason as to why that would be so, it would probably be more along the lines of, high testosterone guys are less intimidated by others, and therefore feel less need to shade the truth.

I HAVE long noticed a correlation between testosterone levels and political views, as I've written about here on the blog.

mark said...

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121010172212.htm

Sorry, don't usually post links. Just google testosterone and honesty. I didn't read the study but I'm muscular so it flattered me and I remembered the headline. Possibly, muscular guys are more likely to make eye contact which I think would increase honesty. Lastly,
convinced Obama is gay, really go to the gym for 20 minutes and see if you can retype that sentence. Although, if you meet Obama at the gym...

John Craig said...

Mark --
Thank you for that. And please, I ASKED you for that link, so don't apologize. That was interesting. And it was a double-blind experiment, too, so the results are impressive. Hmm. Interesting.

I'll keep that in mind in the future.

whorefinder said...

I would bet there's a correlation in men between masculine looks=honesty/lack of manipulative ability and feminine looks=dishonest/manipulativeness.

By evolutionary design.

There has long been the stereotype of the "dumb jock" and "dumb muscle", and part of this is chalked up to a lack of guile. Tough guys threaten to your face and take a swing; wimpy guys don't make overt threats, and if they try anything, it's when your back is turned. Tough, masculine men don't need to develop manipulative skills because they can become the leader by force. They might be smart, but they lack guile to get you to fight a third party while tough guy steals your girl.

Weaker men--more feminine or smaller men---who don't want to get tougher or take the blows learn manipulation as a survival mechanism. Instead of risking their own weak bodies in a fight, they manipulate a rival into self-harm, or manipulate two rivals into a fight. This is why gay men don't enter combat sports, but are catty like little girls: as extremely weak creatures, they won't risk their own skin, but socially destroying rivals to the throne. (This is also why bureaucracies---especially spycraft and diplomacy--- attract more than their share of homosexuals: gays thrive in environments where physical assault is verboten and they are protected by guards, while the backstabbing, gossiping, covert alliances, and secret-stealing required for the jobs are second nature to gays, while they aren't handicapped by feminine concerns of wanting to get pregnant young and the quicker loss of youth around 30.)

I am willing to bet that if you lined up shots of the presidents and ranked them by how masculine their faces were when they began office, you'd find the most soft, feminine faces to be congruent with greater reputations/histories at secrecy, whisper campaigns, ambiguous statements, and backstabbing politics. With the more robust, male ones, there would still be some amount of that (they are politicians, after all), but the majority of their politics and battles would be out in the arena, with open declarations in public of not trusting people, direct conflict and combat, and shows of masculine strength.

Samuel Nock said...

Obama is basically the type of Black guy pictured in all advertisements. Someone who liberals can feel great about for not feeling racist.

John Craig said...

Whorefinder --
That all makes sense, and the correlate you speak of definitely exists, as the study cited by Mark (above) proves. At the same time, I'd say there's an even stronger correlation between backstabbing and office politicking and sociopathy. I've known a few big, masculine guys who were utterly shameless office politickers, and it was obviously a function of their narcissism or sociopathy, not their lack of male hormones.

Sociopaths come in a full range on the masculinity scale, just as they come in a full range of IQ's.

That said, Obama is a perfect example of the type of President with a softer face that you describe. That said, he's also an example of a guy who's high on the sociopathy scale.

John Craig said...

Samuel --
Ha, yes, now that you mention it, he does look like the type of black guy you see in ads.

Samuel Nock said...

This "non-threatening Black guy" persona also goes to the heart of the irrational nature of political / voting decisions, and to much of life generally. Yes, liberals were happy with his positions as articulated in 2008, but fundamentally he won not on the basis of some hyper-rational voter who was weighing the issues. He won because of that non-threatening Black guy persona. An equivalent White candidate: milquetoast, amenable but not particularly commanding, pretty unimpressive professional record (lecturer at a law school, state senator, very junior US senator), etc. The equivalent White candidate with the same positions _and personality_ would have gotten nowhere. Look at the very type of "nice guy" candidates in this election: Kasich, Paul, Chafee. Total non-entities who get nowhere. Make them black, such as Obama or Ben Carson, and all of a sudden the electorate swoons. Rubio, although only marginally non-White, is another perfect example: totally unimpressive as a candidate, and would be on nobody's radar screen were he not "Hispanic".

I don't know if you have been reading Scott Adam's blog on this election, and Trump in particular. He has highlighted how reason is way down on the list of persuasive techniques.

http://blog.dilbert.com/post/136950092871/why-would-a-man-vote-for-hillary-clinton

John Craig said...

Samuel --
Agree with everything you say. People don't vote on the basis of reason at all. And worse, as you imply, is that people have been so brainwashed into thinking of "racism" -- however the media wants to define it -- as the worst possible sin they can commit, that the minute a palatable black candidate comes along, they jump at the opportunity to prove to themselves, and their friends, that they are not "racist."

I sure hope Adams is right about what will happen in the privacy of the voting booth this year.

Steven said...

Obama is a mixed race half black half white guy, who is called black in American society but may not be accepted as a black African by Africans.

He doesn't look overly masculine but he is considered quite good looking and has charming smile and a smoothness about him, maybe a bit contrived.

....

I've seen a study that men with higher facial width to height ratios (testosterone indicator) were more likely to cheat on a task and that people were more likely to predict they would cheat.

Steven said...

Also, re the privacy of the booth, in last years surprise conservative victory in the UK general election, all the polls leading up to the election showed the two parties were even. At the last minute the exit poll showed a Tory win, which nobody expected, and then they won by even more than that. They ended up with a totally unexpected majority and didn't have to form another coalition. Anyway, pollsters have discovered a 'shy conservative' phenomenon where some people wont admit to the pollsters they intend to vote conservative, due to some stigma about doing so.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Honestly, I've never seen Obama as good-looking. He has those weird liver-colored lips, ears that jut out, and nothing special about the rest of his features. And I'm not one to not consider black men good-looking; I'd say the young OJ Simpson, actor Mario Van Peebles, boxer Virgil Hill, and plenty of others are. Obama's just sort of wimpy and weak and plain-looking, to me. But because of that he's nonthreatening-looking, which was the point of this post.

Interesting about the cheating study. It almost directly contradicts the study that Mark cited above.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Interesting; more should be made of that. Are people so brainwashed these days that they feel they have to hide their true political leanings? When even conservatives feel that way, it's a sad comment on how entrenched political correctness has become.

Steven said...

I think its probably something particular to Britain and the Tory party after their unpopular cuts. They aren't even very socially conservative.

About the cheating study:

http://www.psmag.com/business-economics/youre-cheat-wide-face-gave-away-68803

"Over the past few years, researchers have been probing a problematic population: Men with wide faces. A series of studies have found that men with a higher-than-average ratio of facial width to height tend to be more aggressive, more competitive, and more prejudiced against outsiders.

A newly published paper suggests they’re also more likely to cheat, at least when a cash prize is at stake."


Also found that men were more likely to cheat than women. It didn't really surprise me. Girls are more diligent and conscientious than boys in school. And I definitely associate high t with rule breaking and getting into trouble.

I agree some black guys are handsome though those are not the ones I would have picked. I think Obama has something kind of good looking going on and definitely something charming.

mark said...

Thank you Samuel Nock for the link to Adam's post which confused me. It seemed by reading the post that he also was suggesting that Republican women might abandon their party to vote for Hillary but he didn't address that. The Democratic party was perfectly rational in 2008 when they nominated Obama. I think he was the strongest general election candidate though that is debatable. I wasn't a fan of McCain but he gave the Republicans the best(only) chance of winning that election. Whatever mechanism was used, the parties gave themselves the best chance at winning the election. This is why I think you will see less criticism of Trump in the future. He is the Republicans fastest horse and that is starting to dawn on the them. My theory is people want to vote for winners explains why Huckabee and Santorum are doing so much worse this time around. To my mind Cruz looks like a guy who might have figured out how to win a nomination(maybe he is brilliant) but doesn't have a clue in the general election.

Obama has charisma and an occasional million dollar smile. He probably had more testosterone then McCain in 2008.

John Craig said...

Steven --
The cheating study, although it would seem to conflict with the honesty study, in a way makes sense. Guys with more testosterone are by nature more willing to take risks, and cheating is definitely a risk. And it's not surprising at all that men are more likely to cheat for a cash prize than women are, for the same reason.

Steven said...

They are more competitive and more driven to win as well.

Part of one of the studies I saw was that people also predicted they were more likely to cheat based on their face. Isn't that implied by this blog post...you trust moderately masculine men more?

Incidentally, I seem to recall that rape was the a notable exception- a crime that didn't correlate positively with the wider face. Maybe because the less masculine looking guys found it easier to fool women to trust them, or maybe because the less masculine guys found it harder to get laid.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Yes, true about being more competitive and driven. As the French used to say, Vive la difference! I guess those days, the phrase would be, Pretendez la difference doesn't exist.

The point I as trying to make with the post was that Obama doesn't come across threatening at all, which made him much more palatable to the white electorate. He seemed like a "nice" guy, with that big smile and regular ay of talking, and that's what the white electorate wanted to see in a black candidate. They would never have voted for a big, muscular, surly, guy who looked like Sonny Liston.

To answer your question, I don't think I trust men of moderate masculinity any more or less than high testosterone guys, it all depends on the individual. I've known too many of both types who were both trustworthy and untrustworthy to feel otherwise. But I do expect high testosterone guys to generally act in a slightly different fashion than low testosterone ones.

Steven said...

oh yeah you're probably right about Obama. he is, like I said, half white and that might have made him more palatable to some white voters...and because of the characteristics you stated.


You don't trust them more but you think other people do? That's sort of the premise of your article, isn't it? What you wrote about the second guy for eg. and the title.

John Craig said...

Steven --
You're right, that is the title of the post, but now I'm thinking that I may have mis-titled it. What I meant to say had more to do with not being threatening and thus putting people at ease, which is a somewhat different quality than making a judgment about someone's honesty.

I should probably have labeled the post, "Moderate testosterone as a means of putting people at ease."

Steven said...

Okay but if you are positively predisposed to someone,and you assume they're a nice guy, wouldn't you trust them more as well?

John Craig said...

Steven --
"Less threatened" and "at ease" are not quite the same thing as "positively predisposed." For instance, I very rarely feel threatened by women, but that's not quite the same thing as "trusting" them. (Other than, I suppose, trusting them not to physically attack me.)

It's sort of an instinctive thing: if you were in a room alone with, say, someone who looked and acted like Tyson Fury (without knowing who he is), would you be as relaxed as you would be in a room alone with, say, someone who looked and had the physical mannerisms of a 30-year-old Paul McCartney?

Samuel Nock said...

mark, yes they want to vote for winners. The point is that the judgment of who is a winner is based largely upon emotion and non-substantive factors. The selection of Obama in 2008 was only "rational" in that people wanted to vote for him, so this is tautological. They did not vote for him out of some deeply-considered, disinterested and objective analysis of his credentials and achievements. So I think you are agreeing with Adams and me, you're just saying that voting for the guy who will get the most votes because other people are mindlessly going for him too is "rational".

Steven said...

You wrote in your post about the second guy "you'd probably have been positively predisposed toward him, simply because he's not in any way a threatening physical presence". :-)

But I think you've clarified your point adequately!

Anonymous said...

You can't tell a man's testosterone levels by looking at his body shape (his facial acne, on the other hand!), unless he is hypogonadal in which case there are physical clues. Many scrawny guys have to be treated by endocrinologists for dangerously high testosterone levels, which can cause liver damage. High testosterone only gives you big muscles if you work out. It you don't bodybuild, the extra T only makes the muscles moderately bigger.

The hormone well-known for affecting trust is oxytocin (as in, people with high levels thereof know how to get others to trust them). Oxytocin is linked to high cognitive empathy, and a link has been found between autism and faulty oxytocin systems. Interestingly, high levels thereof can make people more ready to deceive.

- Gethin

John Craig said...

Gethin --
Even if body shape isn't a fail safe measure of testosterone (I know a thin guy who's told me his testosterone levels are off the charts too) I bet there's a general correlation. Guys with more manly builds in general tend to have a more male (aggressive) personality (granted, some of that is a result of as well as a cause of build). Otherwise, why would athletes take steroids?

Interesting about oxytocin. You mention a link between low levels and autism; I wonder if that's the "secret ingredient" everyone's been looking for. I've also heard that Aspergers may be caused by wiring in the brain that's actually TOO good, i.e., too many neurons and synapses firing off at the same time, causing overstimulation. don't know what to think.