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High levels of testosterone impair empathy

Category: Hormones and Metabolism

Women have long accused their male partners of not caring about their feelings. Now, a new study suggests that testosterone testing may help get to the bottom of why women feel compelled to make these accusations.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge showed that higher levels of the male sex hormone made participants less capable of understanding another person's emotions. Given the fact that testosterone therapy has become relatively common, the findings could have significant implications.

For the study, the researchers administered testosterone treatments to 16 female participants. They chose women because it would be easier to measure testosterone changes, and alterations in empathy would be more noticeable.

They found that participants who were given the highest levels of testosterone experienced significant reductions in their ability to sense what other people were feeling. Furthermore, sensitivity to testosterone treatment was predicted by certain genetic characteristics. This may help doctors identify individuals who are good candidates for hormone therapy, and who will lose empathy.

"This study contributes to our knowledge of how small hormonal differences can have far-reaching effects on empathy," said Simon Baron-Cohen, who led the study.

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