Author(s): Montoya ER, Terburg D, Bos PA, Will GJ, Buskens V,
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Abstract Moral judgment involves the interplay of emotions and social cognitions. The male sex-hormone testosterone might play a role in moral reasoning as males are more utilitarian than females in their moral decisions, and high salivary testosterone levels also are associated with utilitarian moral decisions. However, there is no direct evidence for a role of testosterone in moral reasoning. Recent testosterone administration studies show effects on cognitive empathy and social cooperation, which depend on right-hand's second-to-fourth (2D:4D) digit ratio, a proxy for prenatal sex-hormone (testosterone-versus-estradiol) priming. Here, in a placebo-controlled within-subjects design using 20 young females we show that 2D:4D predicts 44\% of the variance in the effects of testosterone administration on moral judgment. Subjects who show an increase in utilitarian judgments following testosterone administration have significantly higher than average 2D:4D (relatively high prenatal estradiol priming), while subjects showing more deontological judgments following testosterone administration have near-significantly lower 2D:4D (relatively high prenatal testosterone priming). We argue that prenatally-organized differences in aromatase, i.e. conversion from testosterone to estradiol in the brain, might underlie these effects. Our findings suggest that early neurodevelopmental effects of sex steroids play a crucial role in the activational effects of hormones on moral reasoning later in life. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
This article was published in Psychoneuroendocrinology
and referenced in Journal of AIDS & Clinical Research