Most helpful positive review
Readable report on the latest research
on September 20, 2001
Males commit violent acts at a rate much greater than women. The vast majority of people in prison are males. One of the reasons is they have more testosterone pumping through their veins than women. Testosterone makes people take chances. It makes them more interested in sex and more aggressive. It makes them into "heroes, rogues and lovers," to quote the title of this interesting book. Testosterone tends to affect low socioeconomic status males more than high status males, and the effects of testosterone can be mitigated by learning. Women also produce testosterone, but at lower levels than men; however, what they do produce affects them more. Women are attracted to high testosterone males, but do not necessarily marry them. Women select males and thereby create the males that exist. We inherit our testosterone levels, and testosterone comes before rambunctiousness, not the other way around. (This last from pages 87-88.)
These are some of the facts gleaned from the research of Professor Dabbs, who is the head of the Social/Cognitive Psychology Program at Georgia State University. This book is a report on that research presented with examples, allusions and references to literature and the popular culture, leading to an easy read. Dabbs, along with his collaborator, his wife, Mary, "a former publicist with several feminist organizations," allows us to see the world through testosterone-shaded glasses, but without prejudice. Their report is balanced and fair. They give us the downside of testosterone and the upside, as implied in their title. The fact that theirs is the first popular full-length book (that I know of) devoted exclusively to the phenomenon of testosterone is the result of fairly recent technology that allows the measurement of testosterone levels from saliva samples. Previously, blood had to be used. Since most people are more willing to spit than to allow blood to be taken from their bodies, this technique opened up new possibilities for research, and Dabbs, who apparently has a fair amount of testosterone still pumping through his veins, got there first.
There are charts and graphs showing testosterone levels by occupation. Construction workers, actors, football players, con men (!), blue collar workers, etc., predicably are high in testosterone while clerical workers and clerics, counselors and farmers, etc., are low. Lawyers tend to be high, with trial lawyers and especially flamboyant defense lawyers the highest, with research lawyers the lowest. Relatively high testosterone levels correlate with masculine traits such as muscle strength, spatial ability, narrow-focused thinking, combativeness, while lower levels correlate with feminine traits such as sociability, more generalized thinking, verbal ability, cooperation, etc. Men tend to leap to action, while women tend to think about it first. Higher testosterone does not correlate with high economic status since our society rewards thoughtfulness, patience, and cooperation as well as hard work and being assertive. High testosterone males die younger but have more sex. This too is a predicable finding since it is a type of evolutionary strategy. Testosterone, in fact, might be seen as the chemical form of aggressiveness. Aggressiveness is getting there first with the most. It's a kind of strategy that often works. But there are problems as well as rewards in aggressiveness. First, it's costly; you use more energy. Second, you're not as sure in your actions so you make more mistakes, which is dangerous Third, you incite aggressiveness on the part of others, and that too can be dangerous. Fourth, sometimes getting there first may lead to no advantage. Finally, you can be only so aggressive. Aggressiveness leads to an "arms war." If aggressiveness is rewarded--and it is in a passive world--then everybody tends to become more aggressive until nobody has an advantage; in fact the passive now have the advantage because they live longer, etc., leading to the selection of more passive creatures, creating an environment effectively exploited by the more aggressive, leading to...the arms race cycle.
Some interesting quotes from the text:
"Wife abuse" tends to increase "in the Washington, D.C., area after the Redskins win their football games." (p. 92)
"To some men, a good relationship allows them to strut while their wives admire them." (p. 111)
"...[W]omen know in their secret hearts that men who won't kill for them are useless." (p. 61. Dabbs is paraphrasing from Cormac McCarthy's novel, The Crossing.)
"...[C]avewomen had to have resources and protection for their young, and so in courtship and mating, they favored dominant and powerful suitors...<Cavewoman> values persist today...Money is associated with power...women want men with <good financial prospects>." (p. 113)
"Senator William Proxmire once denounced two of my colleagues for looking at love scientifically, saying that love was a mystery, not a science, and he wanted it to stay that way. My colleagues agreed that love was a mystery, but they thought the senator should welcome all the help he could get in solving the mystery, given his own problems with divorce." (p. 96)
"Sociobiologists like E. O. Wilson believe that understanding the relationship between our animal qualities and our behavior frees us to improve our behavior, similar to the way that understanding the relationship between tubercule bacilli and disease freed us to find effective treatment for tuberculosis." (p. 210)