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The Social Neuroendocrinology of Status

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Abstract: Lay beliefs and traditional theories propose that high levels of testosterone should promote higher status, but empirical evidence is inconsistent. According to the dual-hormone hypothesis (Mehta & Josephs, 2010), testosterone should interact with cortisol—a hormone released in response to psychological stress—to influence status-relevant social behaviors. In this talk I provide empirical support for the dual-hormone hypothesis, elucidate the underlying mechanisms, and identify social contextual “triggers”. Across multiple studies, higher testosterone was positively related to status-relevant outcomes—such as leadership perceptions in group interactions and financial earnings in stock traders—only when cortisol levels were low. When cortisol levels were high, higher testosterone was associated with lower status. On the basis of these data, I argue that variability in stress axis activity “tips” the reproductive axis toward behaviors that either encourage or undermine status. In the last section of the talk, I discuss recent results suggesting that dual-hormone profiles can be induced through psychosocial interventions. These latest findings may help low-status individuals and groups ascend social hierarchies.

Biography: Dr. Mehta received his B.A. from Williams College (Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA ) and his Ph.D. in social-personality psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. He completed postdoctoral fellowships at Columbia University (New York City, USA ) and Erasmus University (Rotterdam)/Donders Institute (Nijmegen), the Netherlands and was formerly an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Oregon (Eugene, Oregon, USA ). Dr. Mehta is currently a Senior Lecturer in the Diversion of Psychology and Language Sciences at the University College London. His research examines the psychological and biological processes that regulate status hierarchies and decision-making. > > There are also a number of other items which I would be grateful if you could confirm/advise:

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