‘Born this Way’? Prenatal Exposure to Testosterone May Determine Behavior in Competition and Conflict

46 Pages Posted: 4 Apr 2019

See all articles by Pablo Brañas-Garza

Pablo Brañas-Garza

Universidad Loyola Andalucia

Subhasish M. Chowdhury

University of Bath - Department of Economics

Antonio Espín

University of Granada

Jeroen Nieboer

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - London School of Economics; Financial Conduct Authority

Date Written: March 11, 2019

Abstract

It is documented that fetal exposure to sexual hormones has long lasting effects on human behavior. The second-to-fourth digit ratio (DR) is a putative marker for prenatal exposure to testosterone (compared to estrogens) while in uterus, with higher relative exposure to testosterone resulting in a lower DR. Although the existing literature documents the correlation of DR with various decisions, and testosterone has been related to competitive behaviors, little research has studied the effect of DR on competition in conflict situations where skills do not matter. We investigate this question in the laboratory. Based on a previously obtained large sample of student subjects, we selectively invite subjects to the laboratory if their right-hand DR is in the top (High type) or bottom (Low type) tercile for their gender. Unbeknownst to the subjects, we perform a controlled match of High and Low types as opponents in a 2-person Tullock contest. We find that Low type (higher exposure to testosterone) males expend significantly higher conflict effort than High type males, that is, they are more aggressive, which reduces their opponents’ earnings. Among females, however, everyone is more aggressive against the High type (who respond less aggressively). These results can partially be explained through high joy of winning and/or spitefulness for Low type males, and high spitefulness for Low type females. This investigation sheds light on the importance of biological aspects in the ex-ante determinants of conflict, and on contest design.

Keywords: Digit Ratio, Contest, Conflict, Gender, Lab Experiments, testosterone, competition

JEL Classification: C72, C91, D74, D91

Suggested Citation

Brañas-Garza, Pablo and Chowdhury, Subhasish M. and Espín, Antonio and Nieboer, Jeroen, ‘Born this Way’? Prenatal Exposure to Testosterone May Determine Behavior in Competition and Conflict (March 11, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3351310 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3351310

Pablo Brañas-Garza

Universidad Loyola Andalucia ( email )

c/ Escritor Castilla Aguayo
Córdoba, 14004
Spain

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/pablobranasgarza/home

Subhasish M. Chowdhury

University of Bath - Department of Economics ( email )

Claverton Down
Bath, BA2 7AY
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/subhasishmc/

Antonio Espín (Contact Author)

University of Granada ( email )

Campus de Cartuja S/N
Granada, Granada 18071
Spain

Jeroen Nieboer

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - London School of Economics ( email )

United Kingdom

Financial Conduct Authority ( email )

25 The North Colonnade
Canary Wharf
London, E14 5HS
United Kingdom

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
29
Abstract Views
299
PlumX Metrics