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Higher testosterone levels are apparently driving men to luxury goods

A new study published this week by a collaboration of very serious academic institutions has come up with a finding that’s equal parts trivial and amusing: higher testosterone levels in men have been shown to stimulate a higher preference for luxury or status symbol goods. Authored by researchers at Caltech, the Wharton School, INSEAD, ZRT Laboratory, and the Sorbonne University, the study suggests there’s a measurable causal relationship between the hormone testosterone and a person’s desire for higher-status brands and goods.

So if you thought you liked the Bugatti Chiron because of its otherworldly performance numbers, its opulent materials, or its striking looks, think again. You’re obviously just responding to your masculine need for exclusivity and superiority. “In our closest animal kin, males spend a lot of time and energy fighting to establish dominance,” says study co-author Colin Camerer in a press release, and “we do, too, but our weapons are what we wear, drive, and live in rather than claws, fists, and muscles.”

Testosterone has often been linked to aggression and being preoccupied with status, and previous studies have suggested a similar link. For this study, researchers recruited 243 men from ages 18 to 55. Half of them received a testosterone gel and the other half received a placebo. Then, everyone was asked how much they preferred a fancier brand (like Armani) versus a decent-quality brand that wasn’t luxury (like North Face). Volunteers that had taken the testosterone gel were more likely to prefer the fancier brands.

In a second part of the study, the volunteers saw three different ads for the same kind of product (such as a watch). One ad emphasized that the watch was high-quality (it’s “a symbol of reliability&rdquo, another emphasized that it was luxurious (“prestige, artisanal spirit, luxury, and attention to detail are part of this watch’s DNA&rdquo and the third focused on it being powerful (using words like “indestructibility, sport, power, and confidence&rdquo. The men had to rate how much they liked each ad on a score from 1 to 10, and the ones who received extra testosterone liked the luxury messaging more than the spiel about power or high quality.

While these findings may be useful to advertisers — who can claim their unreasonably expensive gear is for extra manly individuals, and you’re inadequate if you don’t feel a burning desire for them — for the rest of us they’re mostly a reminder of the often overlooked role of hormones in our everyday decision making.

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