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Core T is All: The Male Sexy Hormone

September 15, 2010

A recent study from the University of Abertay has come out today which challenges testosterone as the primary hormone responsible for male attractiveness; the main culprit is portrayed as cortisol:

Women preferred cues to low cortisol in general and in the fertile phase of the cycle, and there was an interaction between T and cortisol in general and in the non-fertile phase. Results were consistent with the SL-ICHH but not the original immunocompetence handicap model: females expressed preferences for cues to cortisol but not for cues to T, except in interaction with the stress hormone.

Cortisol can be simplified as a stress hormone. The more stressed you are, the more cortisol is floating around your system. Long-term elevated cortisol is hypothesised to play a detrimental effect on health. This is consistent with why the only personality where there is any evidence that there is long-term detrimental health effects is type A.

A brief google search confirms that simple strategies for relaxation such as meditation (or ahem, commonsense: removing a stressor if there is one) helps keep the stress down. I even saw someone say carbohydrates can put your cortisol up (via insulin release, which stimulates cortisol release).

However, the study does have a small sample size. It examined reactions to face only, and not in a holistic manner. I wonder if it’s reproducible.

What do you say girls: is sexual attractiveness something you associate more with someone who’s taking it easy?

9 Comments leave one →
  1. September 15, 2010 9:20 pm

    Not being a girl, I can’t answer the question…but I’m not sure that absence of stress equals taking it easy. *Maybe* what this effect is really about is the ability of a man’s mind/body to handle *external* stress with reasonably low levels of *internal* stress; hence, he would be able to handle more difficult situations–to take it *less* easy– than a person whose internal stress levels were less decoupled from his external stress levels. Analogy: a stronger steel beam would deflect less than a weaker one under a constant load—but that means it will probably get put work bearing heavier loads.

    Hope the above is at least partly comprehensible…

  2. September 15, 2010 9:34 pm

    The cool, collected eye in the storm.

  3. September 16, 2010 7:43 am

    Precisely. Also, it looks like cortisol has something to do with the functioning of the immune system. I think in an age of antibiotics, we tend to forget just how devastating infections diseases were (and may be again, as micro-organisms evolve resistant strains) and hence, immune system quality and compatibility likely plays an important role in mate choice.

  4. September 16, 2010 12:32 pm

    The original hypothesis in the paper above was indeed based on the immune function of cortisol; too much is an immunosuppressant.

  5. September 16, 2010 5:43 pm

    Instapundit linked a story on this today:

    Never thought much about cortisol, but too much of it sounds seriously bad on a number of fronts. One thing, though: given all the diet/environmental factors that affect cortisol levels, how can facial appearance test for it?…unless the ongoing level changes can also affect the way one’s face looks?

  6. Bhetti permalink*
    September 16, 2010 7:04 pm

    Cortisol’s pretty complicated. Look up Cushing’s syndrome which is what happens when its grossly pathologically elevated.

    Cushing’s is different from what’s considered normal variation, but it exemplifies the many different systems the hormone is involved in.

  7. Bhetti permalink*
    September 16, 2010 7:05 pm

    In specific answer to what you were asking about, note the ‘moon face’ amongst its multifarious effects when grossly elevated.


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