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Testosterone makes people more prone to corruption

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Published on June 05, 2015 with No Comments

High levels of the sex hormone testosterone makes people more prone to corruption, according to the results of a new study.

Researchers in Switzerland also found that human beings may be naturally predisposed to corruption – even those who are honest – in their study for the Leadership Quarterly.2

The behaviourologists – all based at the University of Lausanne – initially set out to discover the truth behind John Dalberg-Acton’s famous saying that ‘power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’.

Corruption, it was decided, was defined as the breaking of an accepted social contract for personal advancement or reward.

The team – led by John Antonakis, a professor of organisational behaviour – randomly selected 718 business students to take part in the study.

The volunteers were asked to play two variations of a classic social experiment known as ‘the dictator game’.

In the first variation, 162 randomly-selected business students were named ‘leaders’ and each was assigned between one and three ‘followers’.

The leaders were given an amount of money and asked to distribute it around their group, as evenly or unevenly as they liked.

Those with more followers – and therefore more power – were far more likely to take a significantly larger portion for themselves.

In the second variation, 240 students played the game again. But before beginning, the researchers measured their levels of testosterone and other personality tests.

Before the experiment, the students also voted on how much money it would be reasonable for the leader to take for themselves.

The result of this vote was used to establish a ‘social norm’. If the ‘leaders’ decided to break this social norm, their actions would be branded that of a dictator.


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