No evidence for an effect of testosterone administration on delay discounting in male university students

G.R. Ortner, M. Wibral*, A. Becker, T.J. Dohmen, D. Klingmüller, A. Falk, B W. Weber

*Corresponding author for this work

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Intertemporal choices between a smaller sooner and a larger delayed reward are one of the most important types of decisions humans face in their everyday life. The degree to which individuals discount delayed rewards correlates with impulsiveness. Steep delay discounting has been associated with negative outcomes over a wide range of behaviors such as addiction. However, little is known about the biological foundations of delay discounting. Here, we examine a potential causal link between delay discounting and testosterone, a hormone which has been associated with other types of impulsive behavior. In our double-blind placebo-controlled study 91 healthy young men either received a topical gel containing 50 mg of testosterone (N = 46) or a placebo (N = 45) before participating in a delay discounting task with real incentives. Our main finding is that a single dose administration of testosterone did not lead to significant differences in discount rates between the placebo and the testosterone group. Within groups and in the pooled sample, no significant relationship between testosterone and discount rates was observed. At the same time, we do replicate standard findings from the delay discounting literature such as a magnitude-of-rewards effect on discount rates. In sum, our findings suggest that circulating testosterone does not have a significant effect on delay discounting in young men.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1814-1818
Number of pages5
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013


  • Behavioral endocrinology
  • Delay discounting
  • Impulsiveness
  • Intertemporal choice
  • Placebo-controlled study
  • Testosterone
  • MEN

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