Ever wondered why men tend to prefer status symbols, like a luxury car or brand-name denim? A higher level of testosterone — male sex hormones — could explain the association, say researchers.
The study underscores a biological factor, testosterone, at play in the choice of products conveying status.
Giving men a single dose of testosterone can increase their preference for higher-status goods, said lead author Gideon Nave, assistant professor, at the University of Pennsylvania.
A luxury product, say, a fancy watch, tells the same time as an inexpensive digital one but carries with it a signal of social status, he noted.
The study supports previous research that connects transient increases in testosterone levels to a rise in behaviours aimed at boosting social rank.
The study, published in Nature Communications, covered 243 men aged between 18-55. Each participant received a gel to apply to his upper body; some gels contained testosterone and others were placebos.
Participants were shown two logos of apparel brands selected to match their perceived quality but differ in status. Those who received a dose of testosterone were significantly more likely to prefer the higher-status brands.
The results serve as a foundation for forecasting consumer behaviour, Nave noted.
Testosterone naturally rises in men in certain contexts, such as during and after sporting events, or subsequent to major life events like a graduation or divorce. Marketers could take advantage of these oscillations to tailor their marketing strategies to these individuals, Nave said.
In addition, because such status-seeking behaviours can exacerbate inequality if someone overspends on a status item when they cannot afford it, further understanding of the biological drivers of the behaviour could prove useful, he noted.